Choosing the best rail types of your train project

Choosing the right rail types for your train project is critical to your budget and safety. Rails used for the wrong application can become damaged and require repair more often and, in worst-case scenarios, lead to train damage or derailments. 

Keep reading to get our expert advice on selecting the best rail type for your train project. 

Consider your application

Is your rail project being built for a specific train or rail car type? Your choice of rails will depend on their use. High-speed rail has vastly different specifications and safety considerations compared to light rail lines. 

For example, when building high-speed lines, you’ll likely choose steel tracks because they’re durable (their strength can reach 800+ Mpa) and can withstand high speeds and higher load capacity. As a result, these tracks are also more wear-resistant and may have a longer service life. 

Standard rail lines can make use of lighter-weight rails. Crane rails are commonly used for tramways or light rail operations. 

Read our Tee Rail Ordering Guide or Crane Rail Ordering Guide for more details. 

New vs. Relay rails

You can choose between new or relay rails depending on their intended use. Relay rails are good-quality or refurbished old rails commonly acceptable for sidings and guardrails. 

Rails often start as new, and when they’re not within the usage parameter for a mainline, they’re known as relay rails and may be suitable for relocation to secondary route lines. Upon further wear, they may no longer be suited for this use but can be used in sidings or yard tracks.

After they’re no longer suitable for this tertiary use, they’re decommissioned and sold as scrap metal. 

To determine if your intended use is suitable for relay rails, ask these six questions:

  1. How much weight is going to be on the tracks?
  2. What kind of rail needs to be replaced?
  3. Do the train cars have to make many turns?
  4. How fast are the train cars going on the track?
  5. Is it a Heavy Duty or Secondary Main Line?
  6. Is it just for a siding/yard?

Read more about the difference between new and relay rails on our blog.

Make note of rail standards

No matter what rails you choose, you must ensure they conform to your domestic standards. Rails usually meet these common standards:

  • European Standards (EN)
  • Japanese Standards (JIS)
  • Australian Standards (AREMA)
  • American Standards (ASCE)

Within these standards, there are specific standards and ratings for rails. In the ASCE grades, you can expect: 

  • ASCE 25 rails are lighter weight (25 lbs per yard) and are ideal for low-speed applications
  • ASCE 30 are heavier (30 lbs per yard) and suitable for moderate-speed applications
  • ASCE 40 are 40 lbs per yard and can handle heavy-haul loads or high-speed transportation. 

For higher-grade rails ideal for high-speed transportation, look for ARA-A rails and ARA-B rails for heavy loads and slower speeds. 

Know your rail specifications

Rails come in various shapes and dimensions. Knowing your dimensions is critical to ensure they fit your existing rails and intended line use. 

It’s essential to know four key measurements (in millimetres):

  • Head (HW): the top portion of the rail  
  • Foot (BW): the bottom of the rail that provides stability
  • Web (W): Thinner section of steel that connects the head to the foot (measured at the center point)
  • Height (HT): distance from top to bottom

In addition, please know your nominal weight needs (in kg/m) and the length of metres you need. Typically, rails come in various lengths, from 6 to 25 metres.

Choose a reliable, high-quality track supplier

There are many places to purchase your tracks but look for one that’s reliable and supplies high-quality parts. Ensure that their tracks meet industry requirements. 

Upon delivery, your rails should be free of cracks, scars, scratches, or other visible defects beyond industry-accepted tolerances. Ensure they are free of unnecessary bending, torsion, or other deformities. 

Other helpful rail-buying tips and information

When you choose your rails, you can often choose standard sizes or order something custom for your needs. Orders are typically placed by piece (for stock), per foot, or per net ton. 

Contact NARP for a variety of in-stock and custom-spec rails for your next rail project. Whether you’re looking for new rails or relay rails for secondary lines, sidings, or guardrails, we’ve got you covered.