Old rail length

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Andy873, 17 May 2019.

  1. Andy873

    Andy873 Member

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    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.
     
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  3. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    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.
     
  4. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    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.
     
  5. Andy873

    Andy873 Member

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    Thanks, it was built by the L & Y railway which became part of LMS before BR.
     
  6. swt_passenger

    swt_passenger Veteran Member

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    Would trimming from 60ft to 57ft be all about providing fresh metal to drill for the fishplate bolts?
     
  7. The Lad

    The Lad Member

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    More to do with removing the dropped ends which tend to form at the joints.
     
  8. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    It said it was to cut the worn ends off. If especially worn they might cut to 45 foot.
     
  9. Ploughman

    Ploughman Established Member

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    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.
     

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    Last edited: 17 May 2019
  10. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    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: 17 May 2019
  11. etr221

    etr221 Member

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    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.
     
  12. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    Previous thread here:
    https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/bull-head-rail-length.79873/

    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.
     
  13. 181

    181 Member

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    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.
     
  14. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    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.
     
  15. furnessvale

    furnessvale Established Member

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    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.
     
  16. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    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.
     
  18. furnessvale

    furnessvale Established Member

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    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.
     
  19. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    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.
     
  20. furnessvale

    furnessvale Established Member

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    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.
     
  21. Andy873

    Andy873 Member

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    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.
     
  22. Dr_Paul

    Dr_Paul Member

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    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.
     
  23. Rob F

    Rob F Member

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    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.
     
  24. Elecman

    Elecman Established Member

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

    Ploughman Established Member

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    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.
     
  26. alxndr

    alxndr Member

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    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.
     
  27. Andy873

    Andy873 Member

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    My mistake, meant to say 1800 per mile!
     

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