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What is a Rail Clip?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 23, 2024
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A rail clip is a type of industrial clip that is used to securely fasten train rails to base plates -- these plates secure rails to the ground. Each rail clip is capable of placing approximately two tons (1,814 kilograms) of force upon a railroad track. While rail clips are a popular way to secure rails to base plates, there are many other ways to complete this task as well.

Spikes, chairs, and clips are all different methods of ensuring that rails stay fastened to the ground. Spikes are large industrial nails that can be driven into the ground in order to secure a rail. While spikes are more cost-efficient than any other kind of rail fastener, they are not the most reliable type of clamp. Spikes have a tendency to loosen when they become rotten from harsh weather. An alternative to a railroad spike is a wooden screw that cannot rot.

Railway chairs were largely used in Britain during the 1950s, though these fasteners are mostly obsolete now. By fastening these cast iron devices to rails, tracks were prevented from moving. Due to advancements within the rail fastening field, chair fasteners are no longer an ideal way to secure rails.

The rail clip proves to be one of the best ways to ensure that rails do not move, bend, warp, or rot. The rail clip is manufactured by two main companies: Pandrol and Vossloh. Recently, Pandrol has invented a clip that can be applied at a right angle, which prevents theft or corrosion. In addition to chairs, clips, and spikes, a new method of securing tracks to the ground has recently emerged.

Some countries have begun to experiment with "sleeperless tracks" or "tubular modular tracks." These tracks are set directly inside of concrete, which almost eliminates the need for track maintenance. While sleeperless tracks are rugged and virtually indestructible, they are expensive to install. However, these tracks are entirely ideal for any high-speed rail system.

The type of fastener that is best for any railway largely depends upon a country's climate. While a spike may be a good way to fasten a rail within a cooler climate, a rail clip would work best within a humid climate. When rail fastenings are not strong enough, buckled rails may appear as a result. Buckled rails occur when heat and humidity lift fasteners off of tracks. Rails that have begun to buckle can lead to dangerous derailments, which is why all rails should be properly maintained on a regular basis.

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