Is this a bit of GWR 'bridge rail'?

BRX

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Spotted this next to the Oxford-banbury line a bit North of Oxford, whilst out on a walk. I'm curious whether it's a bit of the 'bridge rail' profile I think was used for early GWR (broad guage?) track... Or is it something else altogether and I'm jumping to conclusions?

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AndrewE

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Almost certainly. Although there were other uses of the profile I would say that the holes for spikes to fix it down make it probable, and the curved wear on one side of the top shows that it had been in use but not turned or swapped side to even the wear out.
Lots of retired lengths of rail were used to support lineside signs, so it could be off one of those.
 

BRX

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Thanks. It has survived quite a long time then, or would they still have been making/laying it later than I might assume?
 

peteb

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I did some research into this and it looks like the GWR salvaged bridge rail from lines they converted to standard gauge and put it to good use as fence posts, particularly restraining posts. The holes were where they screwed the rails to longitudinal timber baulks, rather than the now conventional transverse sleepers. There's a lot of it survives along the Oxford Worcester and Wolverhampton railway.
 

DerekC

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It must have been considerably less flexible sideways than conventional track - does anybody know whether they had a problem in forming curves?
 
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Yes, loads and loads of the stuff around the old GW as fence posts or fence supports etc. Even alongside lines that were never Broad Gauge. Swindon must have had copious amounts which they put to good use around the whole GW system.
 

peteb

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It must have been considerably less flexible sideways than conventional track - does anybody know whether they had a problem in forming curves?
They had metal ties to keep the baulks in gauge, and by all accounts at the time 7' gauge was very smooth running. I am unsure whether any non GWR Standard gauge track (with the exception of mixed gauge track) used bridge rail?
 

edwin_m

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The LR55 rail project has been promoted for a couple of decades to use something like an upside down bridge rail for trams, allowing a shallower construction depth in the street than conventional grooved rail. I believe forming curves was one of the problems with this idea, although this would be at much tighter radii than you'd find on a railway. I've seen something very similar used for trams in Prague.
 

John Luxton

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Here are some lengths of bridge rail repurposed as fencing in the old Neyland station / sea terminal site in Pembrokeshire. Neyland being abandoned as a passenger port with the opening of Fishguard but these relics and other relics remain around the former station site along with quite a few historical interpretation boards. The area is now known as Brunel Quay.

Yes, loads and loads of the stuff around the old GW as fence posts or fence supports etc. Even alongside lines that were never Broad Gauge. Swindon must have had copious amounts which they put to good use around the whole GW system.
I spotted this length adapted as an end of run fence post near where the abandoned section of the Ruabon - Llangollen line crossed the Llangollen Canal. Photographed last year it looks as though someone has been trying to pinch a section as it has two slices which look purposefully cut but the attempt appears to have been abandoned.
 
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Irascible

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They had metal ties to keep the baulks in gauge, and by all accounts at the time 7' gauge was very smooth running. I am unsure whether any non GWR Standard gauge track (with the exception of mixed gauge track) used bridge rail?
Maybe on some bridges? interesting question. Baulk track - albeit not with bridge rail - survived at Paddington until very recently indeed, not sure of a date but it may have been until the first wires went up. It has a major advantage in that the rails don't sag between sleepers under the weight of the train, so there's less rolling resistance - but iirc it was comparatively harsh because it was so unyielding - don't forget the vertical foundation poles holding the baulks - fixed somewhat with better suspension & wheel profiles, I'd think, but I'd like to know the rate of broken rails vs bullhead & chairs. Modern slab track could easily lay the rail on a continuous pad so there must be a good reason it isn't done.
 

BRX

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This is the arrangement at my local station (loughborough junction) where the track passes over a bridge. I think this is "baulk track". With normal rail though.

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 10.20.38.jpgScreenshot 2021-08-27 at 10.20.47.jpg
 

edwin_m

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This is the arrangement at my local station (loughborough junction) where the track passes over a bridge. I think this is "baulk track". With normal rail though.

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Brunel's version was different, with the rail sitting directly on the longitudinal timbers and held down by screws through the holes visible in the OP's photo. With the rail being shallower than the bullhead type used on contemporary sleeper track, it would have sagged or broken under the weight of passing trains if supported intermittently on sleepers.
 

bramling

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I did some research into this and it looks like the GWR salvaged bridge rail from lines they converted to standard gauge and put it to good use as fence posts, particularly restraining posts. The holes were where they screwed the rails to longitudinal timber baulks, rather than the now conventional transverse sleepers. There's a lot of it survives along the Oxford Worcester and Wolverhampton railway.

Very common throughout the GWR area, especially stuff like fence posts on disused railways.
 

Irascible

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Baulk track - albeit not with bridge rail - survived at Paddington until very recently indeed, not sure of a date but it may have been until the first wires went up. It has a major advantage in that the rails don't sag between sleepers under the weight of the train, so there's less rolling resistance -

Yeah I should quote myself for clarity here - rail held with chairs or more modern clip bases laid on baulks is not quite the same as the original GWR track, and the principle of a solid bed of beams & crossmembers isn't really that different to slab track. Originally on the GWR the longditudinal timbers were attached to 6' ( I think ) piles, so the ballast was just there to support the bits in-between rather than keep the whole thing in place. The other advantage of not letting the rails sag is cast iron - it's brittle, so supporting it all the way is good for it's health.
 

JKF

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I’ve seen some as fencing on a road bridge near Pilning many years ago, possibly the one that crosses the old New Passage line (closed 1886). I might see if it’s still there next time I go on a bike ride out that way.
 

Pigeon

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It has a major advantage in that the rails don't sag between sleepers under the weight of the train, so there's less rolling resistance - but iirc it was comparatively harsh because it was so unyielding - don't forget the vertical foundation poles holding the baulks - fixed somewhat with better suspension & wheel profiles, I'd think

Ordinary track does not sag significantly over distances less than several sleeper spacings. The advantage of the continuous wooden support came from the need for lots of rails arising well before the development of processes for producing large quantities of reliably and repeatably high quality steel to make them out of; the continuous resilient support relaxed the requirements for the material that was available. However it is not as good at distributing the load over a large area of ground as conventional transverse sleepering, and it certainly did sag over the distance between the points where the foundation poles held it up, so the trains started going along boing-boing-boing. It didn't take them too long to realise that those poles were not a good idea, and institute a programme of taking them out again, which I seem to remember they found to be such a complete pain to do that they were better off just moving the track a few inches to the side, where there was room to, so it no longer rested on them.
 

edwin_m

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I believe in the final days of broad gauge much of the track was conventional bullhead on longer lateral sleepers. Not sure if this was because they'd decided bridge rail was a bad idea or just so that eventual conversion to standard was just a question of unscrewing one set of the chairs and replacing them further along the sleeper. Was bridge rail used much for mixed gauge track, or for standard-only track after abandonment of broad gauge?
 

Irascible

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Ordinary track does not sag significantly over distances less than several sleeper spacings. The advantage of the continuous wooden support came from the need for lots of rails arising well before the development of processes for producing large quantities of reliably and repeatably high quality steel to make them out of; the continuous resilient support relaxed the requirements for the material that was available. However it is not as good at distributing the load over a large area of ground as conventional transverse sleepering, and it certainly did sag over the distance between the points where the foundation poles held it up, so the trains started going along boing-boing-boing. It didn't take them too long to realise that those poles were not a good idea, and institute a programme of taking them out again, which I seem to remember they found to be such a complete pain to do that they were better off just moving the track a few inches to the side, where there was room to, so it no longer rested on them.

Sag under it's own weight? well no, but under the weight of a loaded wheel? in the days before as you say, good quality steel ( actually in the days before any mass quantity of steel - Bessemer process arrived in what, 1855ish? ).

There was a little paragraph I read when I was re-reading a bit about the original GWR tracklaying saying at first they actually managed to pack the ballast in-between the piles too tightly & bowed the track *upwards*. That track must have been a maintenance nightmare.
 

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