Steam loco tyres - why are they only made in SA?

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alexl92

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This isn’t one of those ‘If its not British its rubbish’ posts; I’m just genuinely curious...

In the UK we can manufacture a complete steam locomotive from scratch with the exception of one aspect (to my knowledge) - the tyres, which have to be produced in South Africa.

Is there a reason that this can’t be done in the UK (or anywhere else - Germany at DB Meiningen for example)? Is it a certain type of material that only SA has the capability to produce?

Thanks!
 
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DelW

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At a guess, I'd suggest that (i) the machinery needed is substantial and therefore expensive, and (ii) that the worldwide market for new steam loco tyres is fairly small. So it's cheaper to obtain them from a works which has the capability, than to set up in competition with it.

Commercial steam operations lasted quite late in South Africa, which could be a factor. Since industrial steam survived longer in China than anywhere else, might there be a lesser-known works there that can make them as well?
 

paul1609

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Id suggest asking your question on the other preserved railway forum. Mike Hart of LSL, WHR, K&ESR etc is a railway wheel magnet but I dont think hes a member on here.
 

alexl92

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Id suggest asking your question on the other preserved railway forum. Mike Hart of LSL, WHR, K&ESR etc is a railway wheel magnet but I dont think hes a member on here.
Which forum would that be? Nat Pres?
 

Master Cutler

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I agree with DelW.
My guess would be that South Africa, following their late departure from steam traction, has the only remaining forging dies and presses large enough. As a product, Steam loco tyres are not in enough demand to justify setting up a new business.
 
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SECR263

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This video shows how seamless rolled rings are made. The principle I assume will the same for railway tyres. You can source loco tyres in Germany, Belgium and South Africa. I assume that the SA firm quotes more competitively for say an order of 6 for an engine. European firms may be interested in more bigger orders. I think all these firms can make up to 4.5m seamless rings. The SA firm if the correct one is called Naledi Ringrollers. Their www site has pics of steel tyres.
 

geoffk

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South Devon Railway Engineering Ltd. orders tyres from South Africa, as seen recently on TV, and no other sources were mentioned so I assume the firm in SA offers best value. We saw how a driving wheel tyre was fitted using heat shrink techniques, a skilled process which requires specialist equipment. I recall it was a 6 ft diameter wheel so I assume from a GWR Hall, or perhaps an LMS Black Five from another railway. ["Steam Train Britain" on the Yesterday Channel, 1st February].
 
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paul1609

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This isn’t one of those ‘If its not British its rubbish’ posts; I’m just genuinely curious...

In the UK we can manufacture a complete steam locomotive from scratch with the exception of one aspect (to my knowledge) - the tyres, which have to be produced in South Africa.

Is there a reason that this can’t be done in the UK (or anywhere else - Germany at DB Meiningen for example)? Is it a certain type of material that only SA has the capability to produce?

Thanks!
Ive asked Mike Hart he says there are currently two firms supplying steam locomotive tyres in the UK his (from European Sources) and the South African one.
Mikes companies website is here: https://www.railwaywheelset.co.uk/index.html
 

alexl92

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Thanks everyone, much appreciated for the informative answers :D
 

Flying Phil

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I thought there was also a Brazilian manufacturer of railway wheel tyres - but they may not go up to the larger diameters for most steam locomotives.
 
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