Here’s How A Rail Grinder Protects Railroads From Wear And Tear

Because maintenance is key.

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rail grinder
Image: HD1080ide | YouTube

Ever since their invention in the 19th century, trains have become an extensively popular means of transport around the world. Owing to that trend, we can find complex railway networks in many countries today. Although trains and railroads might seem naturally eternal to the layman, it takes good care to keep them working as they should. That’s where a rail grinder comes into play.

Rail grinding is an important part of railway maintenance. It’s a technique of grinding a railroad to fix deformities and corrosion that might occur over time with use. A specialized vehicle called a rail grinder performs this task.

A rail grinder can be a small train or a train with multiple carriages, depending on the size of the maintenance crew. At times, old passenger vehicles have also been transformed into rail grinders. Besides these ad-hoc vehicles, rail grinders also come in the form of smaller hand-held machines.

Why do train tracks experience wear and tear?

When a train’s wheels come in contact with the railroads, there is an amount of friction the train has to overcome to achieve locomotion. When tracks are used for a long time, they start losing their original profile due to persistent friction coupled with corrosion. This eventual wear-and-tear leads to rail corrugation (roaring rails) which makes the tracks uneven and deformed.

If not fixed in a timely manner, rail corrugation can seriously decrease the longevity of railroads and require them to be replaced sooner than later. As a preventive measure, rail grinders are used on tracks regularly even before rail corrugation occurs. This is especially crucial for routes that heavy freight trains often use.

How do rail grinders repair train tracks?

Rail grinders have grinding wheels mounted at the bottom that enable them to repair track deformities. There might be 100 or more such wheels, set at specific angles, to grind the railroads as needed. This process shapes the tracks back into the right profile for smooth rides. While doing so, it produces a flurry of sparks on the railroad.

There is a new alternative to traditional rail grinding called high-speed rail grinding (HSG). The grinding effect isn’t as high as its predecessor, but it’s way faster. HSG can grind railroads at a speed of 100kmph or 60mph, allowing quick track maintenance without disrupting any scheduled rides. This new method is picking up pace in certain European countries such as Germany.

So, now you know the purpose of these weird-looking trains that create sparks when they run. Speaking of weird, why not check out the weirdest ways to travel in the world.

Priye Rai

Priye Rai

Priye is a tech writer at Fossbytes, who writes about gaming and anything remotely related to tech, including smartphones, apps, OTT, etc. He prefers to be called a "video game journalist" and grimaces when he doesn't get to be "Player 1." If you want to talk about games or send any feedback, drop him a mail at [email protected]