Challenges of Rail Bending

175-Crane rail, 136- Area rail, 85-ASCE what does it all mean? Do you know the difference between the train rail that guides the Metra into the city and the rail that guides overhead cranes in a factory? Did you know that train rail can be curved in different ways?

Unless you are well-versed in the field, there is a good chance that those questions were difficult to answer. To answer those questions posed in the first paragraph: 175- Crane rail is the heaviest rail made, with a 4.5” head and a height of 6” the rail is suited for the most heavy duty jobs. 136-Area rail is rail that would guide a train around, with a head of 2 5/16” and a height of 7 5/16.  It has a smaller head than the 175-crane rail but gains an inch in height. The reason we are able to say that 175-crane rail is heavier than the 136-Area rail despite the changing dimensions is because the lead number (175,136) actually stands for pounds per yard.  Much like the different size designations for beams, each rail size and weight combo comes with cross-section profiles that vary in height, width, and thickness.

Rail systems allow for moving heavy equipment from one location to another efficiently in a straight line.  But of course, it may be necessary to place track in a way that allows movement that isn’t in a straight line. To get around, rail may need to curve right and left and even change in elevation. To successfully create these curves in the rail a specialty rolling company is often needed.  But rolling rail sections creates new challenges because of the cross-section profile that is not symmetric around all axis points.  The head, or “Ball” of the rail is rounded and presents a more challenging profile to curve than standard I-beams.  For this purpose employing a leader in the bending and rolling industry is often needed who has the capabilities to roll beams either ball-in, ball-out, or ball-up (hardway).

To put his into perspective, picture a train on a track.  That track is sitting on the ground ball-up. The part of the track that the train would contact is considered the ball.  In order to allow a train to curve to the left or right, the rail must be rolled in the ball-up orientation.  Also, the parallel rail track must be rolled to a concentric radius, often within a 1/8” tolerance.  If the radial dimensions are not accurate, this could potentially cause a derailment. Bending rail is a difficult task and to get the accurate results you need, it is necessary to contact a specialized bending and rolling company.


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