Railroad Spikes: What Type of metal are they made from?
Railroad spikes are a crucial component in railroad construction and maintenance. They are used to secure rails to the wooden ties or concrete sleepers that support the tracks, keeping them in place and preventing lateral movement. Railroad spikes have been in use since the early 19th century, and while their design has evolved over time, they are still an essential part of modern railway systems.
What is a railroad spike?
A railroad spike, also known as a dog spike or track spike, is a large nail with a rectangular cross-section that is used to secure rails to railroad ties. The spike is driven into the tie with a spike maul or hammer, and its head is typically made to be larger than the shank to prevent it from being pulled through the tie. Railroad spikes are typically placed every few feet along the rail to keep it firmly in place.
What type of metal are railroad spikes made from?
Railroad spikes are typically made from carbon steel or high carbon steel. Carbon steel is a type of steel that contains carbon as the primary alloying element. It is often used in the construction industry because it is strong, durable, and relatively inexpensive. High carbon steel is a type of carbon steel that contains more carbon than regular carbon steel. It is even stronger and more durable, making it an excellent choice for railroad spikes.
In addition to carbon steel and high carbon steel, some railroad spikes are made from other materials, such as stainless steel, which is corrosion-resistant and requires less maintenance. However, carbon steel and high carbon steel remain the most common materials for railroad spikes due to their strength, durability, and cost-effectiveness.
|Carbon steel||Contains carbon as the primary alloying element; strong, durable, and relatively inexpensive; easy to manufacture and work with.|
|High carbon steel||Contains more carbon than regular carbon steel; even stronger and more durable than carbon steel; also relatively inexpensive and easy to manufacture.|
|Stainless steel||Corrosion-resistant and requires less maintenance than carbon steel or high carbon steel; more expensive than carbon steel or high carbon steel.|
While other materials may be used for railroad spikes, these three are the most common materials. Carbon steel and high carbon steel are the most cost-effective options and offer excellent strength and durability, while stainless steel is a more expensive option that offers superior corrosion resistance.
Why is carbon steel or high carbon steel used for railroad spikes?
Carbon steel and high carbon steel are used for railroad spikes because they are strong and durable enough to withstand the weight of trains and the stresses of frequent use. Additionally, carbon steel and high carbon steel are relatively inexpensive, making them a cost-effective choice for railroad construction and maintenance.
Carbon steel and high carbon steel are also easy to manufacture and work with, making them a popular choice for railroad spikes. The manufacturing process involves heating the steel to a high temperature and then forging it into the desired shape. Once the spike is forged, it is quenched in water or oil to harden the steel and increase its strength.
Process of how railroad spikes are created
Step 1: Raw Material Selection
The first step in creating a railroad spike is selecting the appropriate raw material. As mentioned in our previous article, railroad spikes are typically made from carbon steel or high carbon steel. The steel is typically sourced from mills that specialize in producing high-quality steel for industrial applications.
Step 2: Heating and Forging
Once the raw material has been selected, it’s time to begin the manufacturing process. The first step is heating the steel to a high temperature in a furnace. Once the steel has reached the appropriate temperature, it is then removed from the furnace and placed on a forging press. The press is used to shape the steel into the desired spike shape. The steel is then placed in a cooling tank to temper it.
Step 3: Trimming and Punching
After the steel has been forged into the appropriate shape, it’s time to trim and punch it. The spike is placed on a cutting table, where a hydraulic shear is used to trim it to the appropriate length. Once the spike has been trimmed, it’s time to punch it. A punch machine is used to create the holes in the spike head that are used to secure it to the rail.
Step 4: Quenching and Tempering
Once the spike has been punched, it’s time to quench and temper it. Quenching involves rapidly cooling the spike in water or oil to harden the steel and increase its strength. Tempering involves reheating the spike to a lower temperature to reduce its brittleness and improve its toughness.
Step 5: Finishing
Once the spike has been quenched and tempered, it’s time to finish it. The spike is typically shot-blasted to remove any surface impurities or imperfections. It is then painted or coated to prevent rust and corrosion and improve its longevity.
Railroad spikes are a critical component in railroad construction and maintenance, and they are typically made from carbon steel or high carbon steel due to their strength, durability, and cost-effectiveness. While other materials, such as stainless steel, are sometimes used, carbon steel and high carbon steel remain the most common materials for railroad spikes.
As railroad technology continues to evolve, it’s possible that new materials may be developed that offer even greater strength and durability. However, for the time being, carbon steel and high carbon steel remain the go-to materials for railroad spikes.