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Steel v Alloy Track Choice

HauteSaoneFrance

Joined: 2-01-14

Topics: 27

Replies: 91

Posted: Thu 25th Dec 2014, 12:35pm
Steel v Alloy Track Choice

My proposed garden railway in France has been delayed this year (2014) mainly due to health problems keeping me in the UK. I was going to make up track using 30 X 12 flat bar but to speed up I'm considering buying some flat bottom track either 3 k per M steel or medium 32 aluminium, I need about 180 m of track to get going on my project, My area can be very damp I'm quite close to a big river, very cold in the winter but hot in the summer, there is little possibility of theft. using the MRSC Co website to get prices aluminium as opposed to steel comes out about 1/3rd cheaper but will require more fishplates/bolts and labour to lay as it only seems to come in 4.5 m lengths as opposed to 6 m in steel. I would want to extend in the future using the 30 X 12 flat bar as I already have a quantity of that material. Any opinions gratefully received.
 

Replies To This Post

Peter Beevers

Joined: 9-10-01

Topics: 3

Replies: 134

Posted: Thu 25th Dec 2014, 5:48pm

As its in your garden, I would say you have thought about the two most important factors - cost and labour time. The only other factor to consider is heat. Our society track is aluminium and we do get heat induced buckling at only 30 centigrade. However, I think cost will win here, coupled with the lack of rusting in your damp climate and the ease of curving. So, if I were you, aluminium would win this one. Get your fishplates laser cut and they will be cheaper that way.
 

HauteSaoneFrance

Joined: 2-01-14

Topics: 27

Replies: 91

Posted: Thu 1st Jan 2015, 1:56pm

Thanks Peter for your reply, it seems like a complicated issue and that's why I asked the question. The main consideration seems to be expansion with aluminium having about twice that of steel, temps here can hit 40c in the summer. price difference is not tremendous and if I go for C W medium steel rail at 4 lbs a yard cost per metre of track (rail only) is £8.80 ex vat and in compatible aluminium £7.84 per metre using the larger quantity rates. I think I can cope with curving using a powered bender with the correct formers.
 

davidmawdsley

Joined: 1-01-93

Topics: 1

Replies: 7

Posted: Thu 11th Jun 2015, 10:00pm

Fe vs Al? This very topic came up at the Hemsby Week gathering 3 weeks ago. Maybe the originator has already made his choice, but at least these comments may help others. As far as temperature is concerned, its only the temperature range that matters. We use alloy rail at Hemsby and never had buckling problems, and I guess we enjoy a temperature range from -5 to +30. So, for example, if your range was +5 to +40 you should not suffer. What we do find is that curves expand outwards on hot days, but if the ballasting is in reasonable condition, the track still runs OK.
Other issues to consider...
- if you plan on using track circuits for train/signalling control, alloy is essential.
- Steel is significantly stronger, a factor to consider if using heavy (narrow gauge) locos.
- alloy becomes slippery, especially when wet and/or when locos are over-oiled!
- steel offers better grip under all conditions.
- steel can seriously degrade your wheels unless the top surface is correctly profiled. Wheel flanges have been known to become razor edges. Alloy (being softer) avoids this problem, but suffers wear issues at point blades and crossings. (we use steel inserts to avoid this problem).
- steel may require more effort to bend, and alloy is initially easier to work, but alloy becomes work hardened, and then it is very difficult to 'tweak'.
As ever, its all compromises...
 

HauteSaoneFrance

Joined: 2-01-14

Topics: 27

Replies: 91

Posted: Fri 12th Jun 2015, 7:34am

Thanks David (as well as previous) replies. I've gone for steel having recently taken delivery of 2.1/2 tons of Cromar White medium steel rail, but I have a lot of 30 X 12 flat bar and have already made up several 6 m long sections going to use these to cast into some concreted areas where it's best to have a level crossing including the loco shed which is being built this summer. My decision was taken mainly on account of expansion, it hit over 40c last week and well into the 30's on other days, the usual -10 to -15 temps of winter didn't happen tis year or last, Global warming? Right now my main problem is a personal one, keeping cool in my excavator whilst digging into very rocky ground and moving rather a lot of material in one area but I'm enjoying the work and the challenges.
 
 
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