The Anonymous Widower

Why Are Some Rails Painted White And What Is Saggy Wire Syndrome?

After reading this article on the Rail Engineer web site, I did think about calling this article something like – Who’d Be A Rail Engineer?

But I just had to include Saggy Wire Syndrome.

The article is a technical article about how using steel wheels on steel rails can be a nightmare for the railways and their engineers in hot weather.

When I was a child, the rails had a length of sixty feet and they were separated by a small expansion gap and connected by fishplates. This gave the clickety-clack. Now rails are continuous for several kilometres to give a smooth ride, so occasionally they buckle. To mitigate the problem rails are made pre-stressed to their length at 27°C, so the problems kick in, when the temperature of the track gets above that temperature.

As switches (points) and crossings are particularly vulnerable in hot weather, they are often painted white in the UK, to reflect the heat.

It’s funny, but after having come across Europe through Poland, Germany and Belgium, I can’t actually remember seeing any rails painted white on my journey. Although, there was no clickety-clack indicating jointed rails. Next time, I go to Germany or Poland I must look.

So what is saggy wire syndrome?

This is where the overhead electric wire stretches in the heat and sags, because the tensioning mechanism can’t cope.

The article finishes with this paragraph.

Summer is a real problem.  Roll on winter, when the rails shrink as they get cold and eventually break, earthworks get soggy causing uneven track surfaces, and S&C gets flooded and won’t work.

Who’d be a rail engineer?

All passengers should read the article!

July 4, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] On my trip today to see take pictures at West Ealing and Southall stations, I was also looking for the white rails,I spoke about in this article. […]

    Pingback by White Rails On The Great Western Main Line « The Anonymous Widower | July 4, 2015 | Reply


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