IRJ - March 2011 - (Page 55a)
50th anniversary special
Rails: from modest comm
Voestalpine’s Martin Platzer charts the development of rails from the launch of IRJ to the present day and looks forward to a time when maintenance-free rails will become a reality.
HEN the first issue of IRJ rolled off the presses in 1961, modern steel making technology was still in its infancy. The world’s first commercial production of steel using the basic oxygen process only started in the mid-1950s when it was pioneered by two Austria steel producers: Voest in Linz and Alpine in Donawitz (which later merged to become Voestalpine). The still commonly-used term LD-process refers to these two locations where the new steel technology was implemented in parallel for the first time. The basic oxygen LD-process marked the advent of a new era in rail manufacture, because it not only enabled faster steel production cycles, but also a breakthrough into significantly better clean steel qualities under mass production conditions. The next major step in rail technology occurred when IRJ was in its high teens with the introduction by Voestalpine of continuous casting of rail steel blooms instead of the traditional mould casting. This allowed levels of rail steel perfection to be reached, which up to that time had been unimaginable.
For the first time it was possible to think of rails as a safety product and to differentiate them from ordinary beams in terms of both durability and economy. By the time IRJ was approaching its 30th year, rail had finally risen from its status as a modest commodity to a high-tech product. The 1980s witnessed three major developments: the birth of the ultra-long unwelded rail in 120m lengths (still the longest weld-free rails available worldwide) combined with just-in-time supply to work sites all around Europe the birth of an entirely new family of inline heat-treated premium rail steel grades using the globally-patented head-special-hardening (HSH) process, which today is in its seventh generation, and merging these two features into one unique product: a heat-treated ultralong rail. Rail transport has been undergoing a global renaissance since the start of the 21st century. In terms of the ability to move people and goods, rail is the most eco-friendly and energy-efficient land transport mode, but its potential has yet
to be fully tapped. Investment is underway in all major railway regions of the world, although it must be acknowledged there are budget constraints in certain areas. In terms of rail infrastructure, it is safe to say that the past 10 years have triggered a paradigm change towards life-cycle-cost (LCC) strategies on the basis of the track performance that is actually needed. New generations of high-power traction units, shorter headways, higher speeds, greater axleloads and shorter maintenance times combined with increasing traffic all place greater demands on the traditional rail steels than they can cope
A major development in the production of rails was the ability to produce ultra-long unwelded rail.
IRJ March 2011
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IRJ - March 2011
IRJ - March 2011
We Must Focus on the Needs of Our Customers
The Fall and Rise of Urban Rail Transport
Freight on the Move
American Freight: Still the Envy of the World
Breaking Down the Barriers
Track Maintenance: 50 Years of Progress
Rails: Harder, Faster, Stronger
Full Contact List
The Last Word
IRJ - March 2011