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As someone who has always had in interest in trains and railways, I've often wondered why the rails are cut to length with a square end. When the wheel passes over the expansion gap it gives the clicking noise that we hear. I think if the rail was cut at an angle, the wheel would pass over with the load on both rails at once, or at least gradually, rather than bumping over. I have googled it and can't find anything there.
 

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As someone who has always had in interest in trains and railways, I've often wondered why the rails are cut to length with a square end. When the wheel passes over the expansion gap it gives the clicking noise that we hear. I think if the rail was cut at an angle, the wheel would pass over with the load on both rails at once, or at least gradually, rather than bumping over. I have googled it and can't find anything there.
Hi,

Is it possible to lay, relay square end track, easier, quicker then angled ones.

Angled cuts would need to fit tightly with each other and how would you do that with a new cut angle matching to an existing one. Angles are usually made in material so they snug fit, as expansion joints are required, seems little point in cutting angles when square end will do.

I don't have an definitive answer but thinking about it.:)
 

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If the rail was cut at an angle wouldn't it produce a weak corner that would snap off or wear away?
 

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If the rail was cut at an angle wouldn't it produce a weak corner that would snap off or wear away?
Funny enough that's what my daughter said reading the original post over my shoulder.
 

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I presume you mean with the angle cut vertically at each end? Rather than “square”? A bit like a mitre joint? Rather than a bevel horizontal angle just at the top of the rail that I thought you meant when I first read the OP. With mitre cuts mirroring each other at opposite ends of a rail length. So when adjoining rails were brought together, the two ends would lay side by side over the length of the mitre cut, but the mitred ends would still be the same width overall as the regular part of the rail cross-section?

Would there be a risk in very hot conditions, that the “inside” end of a mitred joint may protrude beyond the normal rail cross-sectional width? So by creating a kind of mini-point? That could catch a wheel flange? In worst case possibly even cause a derailment?

Don’t continuous welded rails overcome the “clickety click” problem anyway? So the only gaps are where there are points and crossings for changing tracks. The latter always negotiated at lower speeds in any case. Certainly all higher speed tracks and track sections appear to use continuous rails these days.

One thing I’ve never quite understood, is how continuous rails deal with temperature expansion? I know though they do occasionally buckle if abnormally hot. Is it because they use special steel alloys with a much lower expansion coefficient than Victorian steel makers could achieve?
 

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One thing I’ve never quite understood, is how continuous rails deal with temperature expansion? I know though they do occasionally buckle if abnormally hot. Is it because they use special steel alloys with a much lower expansion coefficient than Victorian steel makers could achieve?
Continuous rails are long sections welded together, but before that they are pulled together by an amount depending on the temperature. It seems impossible when they cut out a couple of feet then a machine grips both sections and stretches the rails together to about 5mm then a mould is put around the 2 ends and bonded by thermite welding before the moulds are taken off and the rail dressed with hammers and petrol grinders to produce a silent join.

Here is that being done but on a short length without being tensioned.

 

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Discussion Starter #7
I think the expansion gap could be slightly wider if cut at an angle, say 45 degrees looking down on the rail running surface. I don't see why this would cause any problems.
 

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Would there be a risk in very hot conditions, that the “inside” end of a mitred joint may protrude beyond the normal rail cross-sectional width? So by creating a kind of mini-point? That could catch a wheel flange? In worst case possibly even cause a derailment?
Correct and would easily end up with a train in the kitty-litter.

Don’t continuous welded rails overcome the “clickety click” problem anyway? So the only gaps are where there are points and crossings for changing tracks. The latter always negotiated at lower speeds in any case. Certainly all higher speed tracks and track sections appear to use continuous rails these days.
CWR does indeed remover the clickety click sound and is gradually being introduced everywhere, since it is cheaper to maintain. Even the local Cambrian line from Shrewsbury to Machynlleth, Aberystwyth and Pwllheli is now mostly CWR.
And you might be surprised, but there are now high speed points, allowing 80+mph speeds.

One thing I’ve never quite understood, is how continuous rails deal with temperature expansion? I know though they do occasionally buckle if abnormally hot. Is it because they use special steel alloys with a much lower expansion coefficient than Victorian steel makers could achieve?
As CWR is fitted it is stretched by specific amount, taking into account the general temperatures we get, so other countries stretch theirs a different amount. Our stretch coefficient is being looked out considering the increased temperatures we are now getting.
Yes the steel we now use is different to the Victorian stuff, but the expansion rates are very similar.
 

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I think the expansion gap could be slightly wider if cut at an angle, say 45 degrees looking down on the rail running surface. I don't see why this would cause any problems.
Because an angled cut produces a weak point at it's narrowist point, plus when the rail does expand it could result in the rails sliding against each other and one of them sliding inside the other, so reducing the gauge and risking flange strike (the flange of the wheel hitting the sticking out bit). That at best could result in a broken rail or flange and at worst a derailment.

As it is now a straight cut means that when there is "rail creep" it is square end to square end.

There are angled joints in CWR, called expansion or thermal creep joints, but the rails do not have pointed ends and are very tightly clamped to extra sleepers and are subject to more regular and more intense scrutinee than other joints.

And your idea still risks it going out of gauge much too easily.
 

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Thanks Graham and Urrell. Thought it must be something like that. So the trick to continuous rail is it being pre-stretched. So when it does expand it still stays close to its intended dimensions and stays the same length. In sub-zero temperatures then, the rails must be fair fit to twang like a piece of highly stretched elastic? Or a bowstring?

I had a great-great uncle on my father’s side who was a “lengthsman” on what is now the West Coast mainline between Garstang and Lancaster. A daily part of his job was to walk the line tapping the rails with a hammer to make sure they made the right sound. Any off-note or dull sound meant something needed fixing like a loose rail to sleeper connection (forgotten what those are called just now). But in his day were partly bits of hardwood that held the rail tight against the cast iron jaws of the other whatsits (“Frogs??”) that were bolted to the sleeper. I know on modern CWR those are spring steel clamps that hold the flat bottom flange of the rail to the sleeper. But still allow for expansion creep.

While the angled rail to rail joint idea may have both merits and dangers or real risks, I can’t help thinking “What’s the point anyway?” As so much track is continuous rail in the first place so the joint gap hardly exists anywhere? I was beginning to think it was just me, who travels regularly on the East Coast mainline, using the excellent service of the re-nationalised LNER. That can’t remember when I last experienced the old clicketly-clack of wheels over an old style jointed track. Most trips at 100+ mph along the length where Mallard achieved her 126mph. (There is still a large metal tribute sign to Mallard along that stretch. That I saw once while the train I was using was on a pre-nationalisation slow down. But 99.9% of journeys you never see it because you flash past so quickly.)

On LNER trains, and Grand Central, even the 40-year old 125 sets run so smooth, you can hardly tell as a passenger there are any points at junctions even. Perhaps those 80mph points you mentioned? The new Azuma trains, made in Yorkshire by Hitachi, are smoother still. You would think you were sitting in Concorde the ride is so smooth. The food’s not bad either (y)

Next week I’ll be using the West Coast. From Telford down to Brum and thence to Euston. I’ll see what that is like by comparison. Has that been re-nationalised yet? Or is about to be now that Virgin-Stagecoach were sufficiently incompetent to finally lose the franchise last year? Deutsche Bahn to take over perhaps? Like a lot of other “privatised” UK train companies. Three months ago I did Birmingham to York on a privatised Virgin x-Country “Service”. Unimpressed. Especially when someone had nicked my “reserved” seat.

I find rather ironic post-rail privatisation poetic justice, that so many UK train operators are owned by nationalised rail companies. Just not UK nationalised companies. So the profits made from ticket sales to UK travellers are returned to German taxpayers, not UK taxpayers. Apart from LNER. Perhaps Brexit will change that? I’m not holding my breath.

Back to rail joints on old style tracks. Is it right the only places left where those exist now, are almost all on Heritage Lines? Like NYMR or the Wensleydale railway? I would have thought that travellers on those quite like to experience the “clickety-clack”, as it is, errr, nostalgic? :) ;)
 

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West Coast Main line is now run by Avanti. A joint First Group and TrenItalia consortium. Many on this side of the Pennines spoke well of Virgin but Northern Rail were completely the opposite and they have been stripped of the franchise from March 2020 to be operated by the Operator of Last Resort which is Conservative speak for Nationalisation.
 

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I think Virgin were OK as train operators when they first started. Full of optimism, etc. Much like when they took on as Virgin Trains East Coast. It was when their owners started to repeat the questions about “Where’s my profit share dividend?” That they started to cut corners and it all began to go wrong. They lost the West Coast franchise when the Stagecoach half failed to submit a valid bid to keep it. Despite three attempts and numerous time extensions to get it right. Almost makes you think they didn’t want it?

TrenItalia = the Italian State owned rail company of course. So next week I’ll be helping out Italian taxpayers :) . No problems with that really. Just irony. First Group however remain successfully Scottish.

Northern Rail operated many services East of the Pennines too. Such as the Leeds-Harrogate-York line. Where the service was very “reliable”. You could rely on the published timetable being a work of over-optimistic fiction and a train turning up, when it turned up. You can’t blame the drivers for not wanting to break a leg to help bail out the company when it engineered its own downfall. When the other 300 days of every year, the company treated those same drivers and other staff like dog-sh1te picked up on a shoe.

Similar story I suspect at VTEC. The improvement in staff morale and helpfulness since VTEC gave way to LNER has been palpable. It says a lot when the people who work for a company would rather see it go to the wall than help it avoid bankruptcy. Anyone spoken to people who work for Boeing recently?

Ah yes. The word “nationalisation” cannot be allowed to appear in Conservative vocabulary of course. Thanks for reminding me of that. (y) Trust Jacob Rees-Smug and the people who’s strings he pulls to dream up a phrase that makes it sound so negative. :D Perhaps we should at least be relieved they’ve accepted the logic, if not the vocab.:)
 

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For Telford to Euston I would recommend Transport for Wales to New St and Avanti West Coast from there to Euston. I shall be doing exactly that, but from Caersws on Thursday morning (early). There is a direct Avanti Shrewsbury - Euston twice a day but they aren't at a convenient time. The TfW train stops less often than the West Mids train, so is quicker.

I had my first trip down to London on Avanti West Coast this week and other than new signage there was little difference to the Virgin West Coast days. Staff morale seemed better.

Rails sit on sleepers in chairs, in which they are held by Pandrol clips now but in the past by all sorts of things, from hard wood dogs through steel wedges to steel spring clips.

EDIT
And to save time and hassle at New St, use the stairs/escalator at the B end of the platforms as you then don't need to pass through any barriers whilst changing platforms.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Rails sit on sleepers in chairs, in which they are held by Pandrol clips now but in the past by all sorts of things, from hard wood dogs through steel wedges to steel spring clips.
what happened to the frogs?
 

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“Chairs”. That’s them! Thanks.

Also for the New Street tip. I’ll try to remember that. Ticket for Tuesday says “operated by Avanti West Coast”. It’s 07:00 from Telford so I’ll see who actually operates that leg. It’s early days yet to see how things like staff appreciation changes attitudes.
 

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what happened to the frogs?
Railway frogs are something totally different. They are part of the "points".

“Chairs”. That’s them! Thanks.

Also for the New Street tip. I’ll try to remember that. Ticket for Tuesday says “operated by Avanti West Coast”. It’s 07:00 from Telford so I’ll see who actually operates that leg. It’s early days yet to see how things like staff appreciation changes attitudes.
0700 from Telford is the direct Shrewsbury - Euston by Avanti. No use to me as it leaves Shrewsbury before the first UP from Caersws arrives in Shrewsbury. There is another one in the afternoon that I have used, though.
 
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