How are springs used in the rail industry? 19 June 2023

The use of springs in the rail industry may not be immediately apparent, but they play a crucial role in ensuring safe and efficient rail travel. Springs are used in a variety of ways in this sector, from controlling the movement of train carriages to ensuring that rail tracks stay in place. Here, European Springs outlines some of the key areas where springs play a massive role in the rail industry.

Suspension systems

Springs are an essential component of suspension systems in the rail industry as they ensure passenger comfort and safety by absorbing shocks and vibrations. There are several types of springs used in suspension systems, but of course, the main spring type is a suspension spring. Suspension springs held to support the weight of the train carriages, as well as passengers, and are designed to compress and expand in order to absorb shocks and vibrations caused by bumps or irregularities in the track.

Railway signalling

Springs are also used in railway signalling systems, which ensure signals are displayed correctly and reliably. For example, tension springs are used in railway signalling equipment, such as track circuits and relays. These springs guarantee the reliable operation of the signalling equipment. Another example lies in track circuit tension springs, which are used to maintain tension on the electrical contacts that detect the presence of a train. The contacts need to be firmly in place to ensure they make good electrical contact with the rail, and the tension springs provide the necessary force to achieve this. If the tension is insufficient, the contacts may become loose and cause false readings or unreliable detection of trains.

Pantographs and current collectors

Pantographs and current collectors provide electrical power to trains by transferring power from overhead wires to the train’s electric motors and the springs ensure the reliable and efficient collection of this electrical power. For example, contact springs maintain contact between the pantograph and the overhead wire, applying consistent pressure to ensure that the pantograph collects the maximum amount of electrical power possible.

In addition, suspension springs help to support the weight of the pantograph and current collector assembly. By providing the necessary contact pressure and reliably returning to the default position whilst supporting the assembly’s weight, springs help trains operate safely and efficiently, even in adverse weather conditions.

Brake systems

Springs are also commonly used in the brake systems of trains in the railway industry. In this application, springs apply force to the brake shoes or pads, pressing them against the train’s wheels to slow or stop the train. They are also used to return the brake shoes to their resting position after the brakes have been released, ensuring the brake shoes do not drag on the train’s wheels, which could cause excess wear or overheating.

The springs also apply force to the brake shoes or pads when the brakes are activated. So, when air pressure is applied to the brake cylinder, it compresses the brake cylinder springs, forcing the brake shoes or pads against the train’s wheels.

Railroad maintenance

A variety of railroad maintenance equipment depends on springs to help perform a range of tasks. Among these are the rail anchors, devices used to hold the rails in place and are designed to resist the lateral and longitudinal forces that act on the rails as the trains pass over them. Springs are used in rail anchors to provide the necessary resistance to these forces and to ensure that the rails remain firmly in place.

Springs can also be found in the rail joints, which are metal plates and bolts used to joint the rails together. Springs are used in these joints to maintain the proper tension on the bolts, ensuring that they remain securely fastened even as the temperature and other environmental factors change.

Springs are also vital to track maintenance machines, which are responsible for maintaining tampers, ballast regulators, and tie-inserters. Here, springs are used in these machines to absorb shock and to provide the necessary force for the machines to perform their tasks effectively.  

European springs’ work with the rail industry

European Springs offer a wide range of products specifically designed to meet the unique demands of the rail industry, including bespoke springs. The European Springs concludes that “we are committed to delivering the highest standards of quality and reliability in our products and use the latest technologies and manufacturing processes to ensure that our springs and pressings meet the strict requirements of the rail industry”.

Becca England Assistant Editor t: +44 (0) 1727 615 413

Becca is the latest member to join our team and is eager to get stuck into the world of fasteners. She brings an enthusiastic and fresh outlook on what we do editorially and will be leading our social media activity – including sourcing material, editing articles and posting online.