Railway transport is one of the most preferred forms of transport as a result of the cheap transport cost involved as compared to other means of transport. It involves the use of conveyed wheeled vehicles which runs on a rail track as compared to the normal vehicles that uses a prepared road. Railway transport system has been in existence since the 6th Century B.C. and its development intensified during the industrial evolution and yet, the system has maintained a distinct construction method (Hylton, 2007). The railway system involves the use of continuous rails usually made of steel that are installed on ballast and ties or sleepers. The rolling stock which is fitted with metal wheels then moves on these rails. The nature of the rail tracks indicates the need to construct and maintain a safe and efficient method of railway transport in regard to the maintaining safety and yet efficient transport system. This paper addresses some of the reasons that contributed to the way the rail lines are routed as well as suggest some of the ways these rail lines can be maintained for efficient and safe means of land transportation process.
i). In early rail history, why were rail lines routed the way they were?
Early developments of rail lines involved construction of traversing rails made of steel as they networked linking various urban and suburban places across the country. The initial reason for constructing rail lines was to provide a cost effective way of transporting commercial products from one place to another thus, basically trade was the main contributor of the construction of rails that linked simultaneous urban and suburban centers (Lewis, 2009). Routing system in highly populated urban areas involved construction of rails under tunnels which reduced the noise caused by the trains.
Tunnels were drilled in mountainous areas as a result of the nature of trains which limits its capacity to travel over the mountains or adjust into sharp corners; hence the tunnels were a way of maintaining straight rail lines for easy transportation (Pike, 2001). Other ways of avoiding steep hills and valleys involved construction of very long rail bridges to counter the steep areas.
As a way of monitoring the total weight passing over each rail track, the rails were laid in either narrow or wide gauges which separated the rails and each track had a maximum allowed loading weight so as to reduce tear and wear as well as ensure safe transport system. This was monitored through constructing different routes for the passengers and freight as they consist of different weight capacities. This is however diminishing with the current electric rails construction which is constructed in such a way that they are able to sustain all types of weights.
ii). What was, and is needed to maintain a successful rail route?
Rail routes maintenance is the most crucial issue that has faced this transportation system for a long time due to its complex nature that needs to be constantly monitored and repaired. The rails system involves interconnection of steel rail lines fastened together and fitted into a slab of ballast or timbers and it is on these thin rails that a train which consists of several interconnected sections has to pass through (Lewis 2009). This means that the situation of these rails has to be constantly monitored to ensure that there is no faulty issue that could result in a fatal accident, a situation which could lead to destruction of life and property.
Trains are the leading forms of transport that carries the largest population as well as the most fragile and large cargos from one destination to another. Hence, frequent maintenance through tracks repair particularly on rails that were fitted on the timbers or cases involving electric trains is one of the methods that are used to ensure safe and efficient rail roads.
The most leading cause of rails damages and trains delays and often cancellation of the transport is the interference of the rolling stock to efficiently grip the rails as a result of the friction caused by falling leaves. According to a survey conducted by the railway management of the United Kingdom, a mass of leaves after collecting on the rails as they are swept by a passing train are pressed against the rails and this results to the formation of a Teflon like coating on the top of the rails causing the wheels to slide and spin, a situation which could lead to a fatal accident. As a way of regulating these incidences, rails management has adopted a cleaning system that involves spreading a gritty paste that eliminates any coating formed on the rails hence improving the required adhesion (Pike, 2001). Railway management has also regulated growth of weeds through frequent spraying the tracks with herbicides hence regulating the friction related problems.
Also to ensure frequent monitoring and rail tracks repair, it is necessary for the railway management system to form a special team that oversees this maintenance process. According to Squires (2002), the team should be able to frequently monitor any situations that may lead to the damage of rails and the train’s rolling stock. These ensure early replacement of worn-out sleepers, inspection and fastening of loosened rail components, ensuring proper lighting as well as ensuring the rails are always straight among other rail lines maintenance processes.
The development of railway as a cost effective means of transport both for cargo and passengers had a major contribution to economic development in many parts of the world. This saw a development from the use of ancient locomotives to the modern electric trains which have made transport safe, easy and cost effective. Hence more effective ways of maintaining safety and efficiency of rail tracks is necessary for the better of economic value contributed by railway means of transport.
Hylton, Stuart (2007). The Grand Experiment: The Birth of the Railway Age 1820–1845. Ian Allan Publishing.
Lewis, R (2009). Wheel/rail interface handbook. New York: Woodhead Publishing Limited.
Pike, J., (2001), Track, Sutton Publishing,
Squires, G. Ed. (2002) Urban Sprawl: Causes, Consequences, & Policy Responses. The Urban Institute Press.