Old rail length

Status
Not open for further replies.

Andy873

Member
Joined
23 Mar 2017
Messages
169
I was wondering what was the length of individual rails used in the 1950s by BR were.
Wikipedia states BR used 60 foot sections in 1950, but I never know if what I read is correct.

I'm trying to calculate how many rails / sleepers my old 9 mile 284 yard long line used.

I'm told 1,800 sleepers per chains, and the are 80 chains in a mile - so that's easy to calculate, but what about the track length?

I've read various things, 60 foot, 65 foot, 45 foot etc - can anyone give me an idea of what is was?

This was a branch line by the way.

Thanks.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

hexagon789

Veteran Member
Joined
2 Sep 2016
Messages
12,008
Location
Glasgow
I was wondering what was the length of individual rails used in the 1950s by BR were.
Wikipedia states BR used 60 foot sections in 1950, but I never know if what I read is correct.

I'm trying to calculate how many rails / sleepers my old 9 mile 284 yard long line used.

I'm told 1,800 sleepers per chains, and the are 80 chains in a mile - so that's easy to calculate, but what about the track length?

I've read various things, 60 foot, 65 foot, 45 foot etc - can anyone give me an idea of what is was?

This was a branch line by the way.

Thanks.

I believe 60 foot was the norm on mainlines and 45 on branches at one point.

I think it varied considerably pre-nationalisation though and certainly pre-grouping.
 

hexagon789

Veteran Member
Joined
2 Sep 2016
Messages
12,008
Location
Glasgow
Seems to have been 60ft standard lengths under BR. When reusing rails on secondary lines they would be trimmed to either 57 or 45 feet. Transitions rails were delivered in 30 foot lengths.

The LNER seems to have used 60 foot as standard but 45 on some secondary lines where local track gangs were smaller and thus the shorter lengths were easier for them to handle.
 

Andy873

Member
Joined
23 Mar 2017
Messages
169
Thanks, it was built by the L & Y railway which became part of LMS before BR.
 

swt_passenger

Veteran Member
Joined
7 Apr 2010
Messages
26,414
Would trimming from 60ft to 57ft be all about providing fresh metal to drill for the fishplate bolts?
 

The Lad

Member
Joined
22 Jan 2015
Messages
334
More to do with removing the dropped ends which tend to form at the joints.
 

Ploughman

Established Member
Joined
15 Jan 2010
Messages
2,702
Location
Near where the 3 ridings meet
The NER used 45ft and 30ft standard lengths.
45ft = 17 sleeper / length.
30ft BH 95lb = 11 sleepers / length.
30ft FB 100lb / yd = 13 Sleepers / length.

Post 1939 and as part of the supply of rails from the USA 39ft rails were introduced.
39ft was the max length of rail that could be loaded into the ships holds.
The NYMR uplifted the last remaining 39fts on its line back in February and have now been sent for scrap.
Photo taken at Newbridge yard NYMR showing a USA S160 Loco and tender plus the uplifted US BH rails in the foreground.
 

Attachments

  • 3 USA Items.jpg
    3 USA Items.jpg
    1.5 MB · Views: 40
Last edited:

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
6,682
It is normal in many industrial processes where materials are returned, possibly with some damage, to cut out the damage and then cut them down further to the next standard size below for restocking. A parallel example is scaffolding poles. Just supplied by the manufacturer at full length, most damage (bolt holes, bending, even fractures) tends to be at the end (if it's in the middle, the whole length is commonly scrap).

It would be likely that 60' would be new steel, and 45' for branches and especially sidings would be be reused. 60' would also be a convenient size, rather than anything longer, to transport from the steelworks in the first place, possibly across two wagons. The whole purpose of 45' rails may have been to facilitate reuse, rather than any operational or track gang benefit.

Cecil J Allen, longstanding prime author of railway enthusiast books and articles, was the LNER's principal purchase agent for rails from the steelworks, in regularly visiting these (not all on the LNER) it gave him plenty of business rail travel to compile his numerous logs of locomotive performance from. He doesn't seem to have written any classic book about rails though.

39' rails were long standard in the USA. The rail joints of the two rails are also staggered, instead of parallel as in Britain, giving rise to quite a different wheel noise from the train.
 
Last edited:

etr221

Member
Joined
10 Mar 2018
Messages
570
39' rails were long standard in the USA. The rail joints of the two rails are also staggered, instead of parallel as in Britain, giving rise to quite a different wheel noise from the train.
AIUI American steel companies never set themselves up for rail lengths of greater than 39 feet, the railroads over there never heving driven them to do so.

A 1928 book I have by C J Allen states that rail lengths had gradually increased from 24' through 30', 36', the 'very popular' 45' 'to what seems likely to become the future standard of 60ft' - this had first introduced on the LNWR (which rolled its own, in its own steel works), was then (1928) rapidly becoming standard all over the LMS, with the LNER having 'recently decided' to follow suit. I have always assumed that these were the lengths of new rails, with secondary lines reusing older, shorter rails.
 

181

Member
Joined
12 Feb 2013
Messages
526
45ft BH rail was AFAIK an earlier standard length, and the change from 60ft is quite startling at speed. I'm fairly sure there's still a length somewhere around Lochailort on the Mallaig line (or was last September).
Hadn't thought about it being cut down 60ft though.

I've not been on the Mallaig line since 2013, but my recollection is that the first stretch of short rails after leaving Fort William is/was between Locheilside and Glenfinnan, with one or two others further on. A similar stretch between Taynuilt and Connel on the Oban line was still there in July 2017.
 

Taunton

Established Member
Joined
1 Aug 2013
Messages
6,682
Bear in mind that these were times before mechanical handling devices for rails, and they had to be capable of being moved by how many men the ganger had in their track gang. At 110lb/yard a 60' rail weighs about 1 ton. For six men in a gang that's still quite a weight to pick up with the rail-handling tongs.
 

furnessvale

Established Member
Joined
14 Jul 2015
Messages
4,177
Bear in mind that these were times before mechanical handling devices for rails, and they had to be capable of being moved by how many men the ganger had in their track gang. At 110lb/yard a 60' rail weighs about 1 ton. For six men in a gang that's still quite a weight to pick up with the rail-handling tongs.
When rails needed lifting, as opposed to barring about, adjacent gangs would assist each other. In many instances, lifting rails onto wagons was part of a relaying operation when the relayers would be on the job providing many more pairs of hands.
 

hexagon789

Veteran Member
Joined
2 Sep 2016
Messages
12,008
Location
Glasgow
When rails needed lifting, as opposed to barring about, adjacent gangs would assist each other. In many instances, lifting rails onto wagons was part of a relaying operation when the relayers would be on the job providing many more pairs of hands.

Did CWR ever get hand lifted or were the extra long lengths simply too much?
 

Bald Rick

Veteran Member
Joined
28 Sep 2010
Messages
20,278
I'm told 1,800 sleepers per chains, and the are 80 chains in a mile

all the discussion about rail length has caused this to be missed.

A chain is 22yards (approx 20 metres), and if you had 1800 sleepers in that length they’d have to be very narrow!

Typical sleeper spacing now is 28 sleepers ‘per length’ (ie per 60ft rail length). On heavy spec railways - high speed and/or high tonnage, this will go up to 30/length. However on railways that haven’t been renewed in the last 20 years, you will see examples of 26/length and 24/length, occasionally less.
 

furnessvale

Established Member
Joined
14 Jul 2015
Messages
4,177
Did CWR ever get hand lifted or were the extra long lengths simply too much?
I cannot recall any attempts to lift CWR other than by side lifters fitted to a string of Salmon wagons. IIRC about 6 wagons were fitted with 2 cranes each which enabled a 360ft length to be lifted.

Of course, getting the rail off the train is easy. You simply chain the new rail on the wagon to the track and pull the train from underneath it. In the old days we barred the service rails out and dropped the new rail straight into final position. I think that practice is now banned and the rail is put to one side for later installation by a threader.
 

hexagon789

Veteran Member
Joined
2 Sep 2016
Messages
12,008
Location
Glasgow
I cannot recall any attempts to lift CWR other than by side lifters fitted to a string of Salmon wagons. IIRC about 6 wagons were fitted with 2 cranes each which enabled a 360ft length to be lifted.

300 or 600 foot seemed a lot to lift other than by mechanical means. I imagine that in earlier years it would've been delivered in shorter lengths and welded up on site rather than delivered as longer pre-welded lengths.
 

furnessvale

Established Member
Joined
14 Jul 2015
Messages
4,177
300 or 600 foot seemed a lot to lift other than by mechanical means. I imagine that in earlier years it would've been delivered in shorter lengths and welded up on site rather than delivered as longer pre-welded lengths.
My time on the railways dates from 1964. On the LM region rails were delivered in 720ft length and unloaded on site as I described. The Eastern region was supplied by a plant that could make 1200ft rails.
 

Andy873

Member
Joined
23 Mar 2017
Messages
169
Thanks every one,

So really, as a rough rule of thumb, 60 & 45 (1950s) seem to be common lengths, but there were many factors involved and deviations from this for various reasons.
 

Dr_Paul

Member
Joined
3 Sep 2013
Messages
1,041
Bear in mind that these were times before mechanical handling devices for rails, and they had to be capable of being moved by how many men the ganger had in their track gang. At 110lb/yard a 60' rail weighs about 1 ton. For six men in a gang that's still quite a weight to pick up with the rail-handling tongs.

When I was working with ex-BR 60' track on the Ffestiniog Railway, I think it was around 75lb/yard, we could carry a rail around quite easily with eight of us using four sets of tongs. Any fewer than that would have been rather hard work for us, so we didn't try it.
 

Rob F

Member
Joined
17 Dec 2015
Messages
307
Location
Notts
There are (or were) some short rail lengths on the St Ives branch in Cornwall, on the only straight section of line behind Porth Kidney sands. I could never tell if the lengths were really short or if the joints were offset on each side.
 

Elecman

Established Member
Joined
31 Dec 2013
Messages
2,305
Location
Lancashire
I was wondering what was the length of individual rails used in the 1950s by BR were.
Wikipedia states BR used 60 foot sections in 1950, but I never know if what I read is correct.

I'm trying to calculate how many rails / sleepers my old 9 mile 284 yard long line used.

I'm told 1,800 sleepers per chains, and the are 80 chains in a mile - so that's easy to calculate, but what about the track length?

I've read various things, 60 foot, 65 foot, 45 foot etc - can anyone give me an idea of what is was?

This was a branch line by the way.

Thanks.
There won’t be 1800 sleepers per chain (220yards)!!
 

Ploughman

Established Member
Joined
15 Jan 2010
Messages
2,702
Location
Near where the 3 ridings meet
I was wondering what was the length of individual rails used in the 1950s by BR were.
Wikipedia states BR used 60 foot sections in 1950, but I never know if what I read is correct.

I'm trying to calculate how many rails / sleepers my old 9 mile 284 yard long line used.

I'm told 1,800 sleepers per chains, and the are 80 chains in a mile - so that's easy to calculate, but what about the track length?

I've read various things, 60 foot, 65 foot, 45 foot etc - can anyone give me an idea of what is was?

This was a branch line by the way.

Thanks.


In answer to the original post
A mileage of 9m 284yds would need 1612 60ft / 18.288m Rails
Sleepers at 26 / length = 20952
Sleepers at 28 / length = 22569

As a personal note on the NYMR we originally relaid Concrete sleepers by hand in the early 80's, using the correct lifting handles.
This was an 8 man lift per concrete sleeper. 4 man for timber.
I also seem to remember lifting in some rails by hand from the sleeper end into the baseplates without using bars at 20 men.
 

alxndr

Member
Joined
3 Apr 2015
Messages
1,008
Typical sleeper spacing now is 28 sleepers ‘per length’ (ie per 60ft rail length). On heavy spec railways - high speed and/or high tonnage, this will go up to 30/length. However on railways that haven’t been renewed in the last 20 years, you will see examples of 26/length and 24/length, occasionally less.

I always wondered about this after reading Signalman's Twilight where someone is described as walking in a "heavy, ponderous way, his stride long and slow after a lifetime spent walking the sleepers and his hobnailed boots with their bent-up toecaps crunched slowly" as the walk of a modern day patroller is very different and staccato.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Top