Dating old railroad spikes

At first, simple nails or pegs were used but this setup proved problematic and unreliable since sometimes these would come loose or simply could not tightly secure the rails to the ties. It was a simple but ingenious setup that came to be known as flat bottomed rail but today is commonly known as "T"-rail flipped upside down it resembles the uppercase letter "T".

Stevens initially ran into problems trying to prove his concept since there were no iron works then in operation within the U. So, he sailed to England and had pieces of rail, 15 feet long weighing 36 pounds per yard rolled in early It was the first use of "T"-rail in the country and eventually caught on with other railroads.

Colonel Stevens also invented a large, hooked nail to hold the rail to the tie via the elongated base. Over the years variations of Stevens' spike have been employed such as the "dog spike" which utilizes a shortened head with outward facing lugs at the top which aids in the removal process but essentially, the same basic design has been used for the last two centuries.

When tie plates were introduced around the spike's effectiveness greatly increased. The plate has a very wide horizontal base, usually with four holes on each side for spikes to hold the rail and then fasten everything to the tie. Once forced into place the plate provides more lateral support and also helps hold the rail to correct gauge.

Rail fastening system

In the modern age new crossties, such as those made of concrete and composite materials, use a type of clip system and other countries have also used a type of clip even with wooden ties. However, in the U. All content copyright American-Rails. Contact Us About American-Rails. Manual hole drilling and spike or screw insertion and removal have been replaced by semi-automated or automated machines, which are driven electrically, by pneumatics, by hydraulics, or are powered by a two-stroke engine.

Railroad Spike

Machines that remove spikes are called spike pullers. The earliest rail chairs , made of cast iron and introduced around , were used to fix and support cast-iron rails at their ends; [2] they were also used to join adjacent rails. In the s rolled T-shaped or single-flanged T parallel rail and I-shaped or double-flanged T parallel or bullhead rails were introduced; both required cast-iron chairs to support them. When inserted into the chair, exposure to the wet atmosphere caused the key to expand, firmly holding the rail.

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In Britain they were usually on the outside. Chairs have been fixed to the sleeper using wooden spikes trenails , screws, fang-bolts or spikes. In most of the world, flat-bottomed rail and baseplates became the standard. However, in Britain, bullhead rail-and-chairs remained in use until the middle of the twentieth century.

A tie plate , baseplate or sole plate is a steel plate used on rail tracks between flanged T rail and the crossties. The tie plate increases bearing area and holds the rail to correct gauge.

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They are fastened to wooden ties by means of spikes or bolts through holes in the plate. The part of the plate under the rail base is tapered, setting the cant of the rail, an inward rotation from the vertical. The usual slope is one in forty 1. The top surface of the plate has one or two shoulders that fit against the edges of the base of the rail. The double-shoulder type is currently used.

Treasure Along The Railroad

Older single-shoulder types were adaptable for various rail widths, with the single shoulder positioned on the outside field side of the rails. Most plates are slightly wider on the field side, without which the plates tend to cut more into the outsides of the tie, reducing cant angle. Many railways use large wood screws , also called lag screws , to fasten the tie plates or baseplates to the railroad ties.

Tie plates came into use around the year , before which time flanged T rail was spiked directly to the ties. A variety of different types of heavy-duty clips are used to fasten the rails to the underlying baseplate, one common one being the Pandrol fastener Pandrol clip , named after its maker, which is shaped like a stubby paperclip.


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The newer Pandrol fastclip is applied at right angles to the rail. Because the clip is captive, it has to be installed at the time of manufacture of the concrete sleeper. Rail anchors or anticreepers are spring steel clips that attach to the underside of the rail baseplate and bear against the sides of the sleepers to prevent longitudinal movement of the rail, either from changes in temperature or through vibration.


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Screw for fixing plate to sleeper Elastomeric pad supporting rail Tension washer Rail clamp Tensioning bolt nut not shown Baseplate. University of Illinois Press. Holt and company, New York. Railroad Engineering, Volume 1. Longmans, Green, and Co.

How to date railroad spikes - Friendly Metal Detecting Forums

Federal Railroad Administration From Cadet Engineer to Railways Commissioner. Barry, John Wolfe Longmans, Green and co. Practical Railway Engineering 2nd ed. Clark, Daniel Kinnear The Manchester Model Railway Society. Check date values in: Ellis' British Railway Engineering Encyclopaedia. Hay, William Walter Railroad Engineering, Volume 1 1st ed.

Railroad engineering, Volume 1 2nd ed. John Wiley and Sons. Orrock, John Wilson