Overview of the Different Types of Railroad Spikes

Railroad spikes are an essential component in the construction and maintenance of railways. These small yet crucial pieces of hardware are responsible for holding the rails securely in place on the wooden ties, preventing them from moving out of position due to the heavy loads and vibrations of trains passing over them. Railroad spikes also help to distribute the load of the train evenly across the track, thereby reducing the wear and tear on the rails.

It is important to understand the different types of railroad spikes used in the industry as each has its unique features and benefits. In this article, we will explore the most commonly used types of railroad spikes, namely the common spike, screw spike, dog spike, drive spike, and hook spike. We will provide a detailed overview of each spike, including its design, manufacturing process, usage, advantages, and disadvantages. This article aims to provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the various types of railroad spikes used in the industry, helping them make informed decisions about the selection and usage of these crucial components.

Types of Railroad Spikes

Common Railroad Spike

The common railroad spike, also known as the cut spike or flat spike, is the most commonly used type of spike in railway construction and maintenance.

A railroad spike is a large nail with an offset head, designed to be driven into the wooden ties that support the rails. The common spike is typically made of high-carbon steel and has a rectangular cross-section, with a length of around 5.5 inches and a weight of approximately 9 ounces. It has been in use since the mid-19th century, when it replaced the earlier wrought-iron spike, and continues to be the most widely used type of spike today.

Dimensions and design

The common spike has a rectangular cross-section, with a width of around 9/16 inch and a thickness of approximately 5/8 inch. It has a tapered shank that narrows towards the point, which is slightly offset from the centerline of the shank. The head of the spike is rectangular, with a width of around 1 inch and a length of approximately 1.5 inches, and is typically punched with two square holes to facilitate handling.

Manufacturing process

The manufacturing process of common spikes involves several steps, including forging, cutting, punching, and heat treatment. The steel is heated to a high temperature and then forged into a rectangular shape using a hammer or press. The spike is then cut to the desired length and the head is formed by punching two square holes in the center of the rectangle. The spike is then heat-treated to increase its strength and hardness.

Usage and applications

The common spike is used to fasten the rails to the wooden ties in railway construction and maintenance. It is typically driven into the tie with a spike maul or hammer, with the offset head providing a secure grip on the rail. The common spike is suitable for use on both straight and curved track, and is compatible with most types of rail.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantages of the common spike are its simplicity, durability, and cost-effectiveness. It is a reliable and proven method of securing rails to ties, and can withstand heavy loads and vibrations. However, it also has some disadvantages, such as a tendency to work loose over time, and a lack of adjustability.

Comparison to other types of spikes

Compared to other types of spikes, such as screw spikes and dog spikes, the common spike is generally less expensive and easier to install. However, it may not provide as secure a grip on the rail, and may require more frequent maintenance to prevent loosening. Overall, the common spike is a tried-and-true method of fastening rails to ties, and continues to be the most widely used type of spike in the railway industry.

Screw Spike

The screw spike, also known as the threaded spike or coach screw, is a type of railroad spike that is threaded and screwed into the wooden tie rather than driven in like a common spike.

Screw spikes were first introduced in the late 19th century as an alternative to common spikes. They are made of high-carbon steel and have a tapered shank with a threaded portion at the end. They are typically used in combination with a drive socket or wrench to screw them into the wooden tie.

Dimensions and design

Screw spikes come in various lengths, ranging from 5.5 inches to 11.5 inches, with a diameter of around 5/8 inch. They have a tapered shank with a threaded portion at the end, which allows them to be screwed into the wooden tie. The head of the screw spike is typically square or hexagonal in shape, with a width of around 1.5 inches.

The manufacturing process of screw spikes involves several steps, including forging, cutting, threading, and heat treatment. The steel is heated to a high temperature and then forged into a tapered shape. The spike is then cut to the desired length and the threaded portion is formed using a threading machine. The spike is then heat-treated to increase its strength and hardness.

Screw spikes are used to fasten the rails to the wooden ties in railway construction and maintenance. They are typically screwed into the tie with a drive socket or wrench, which allows for a more secure and adjustable fastening. Screw spikes are particularly useful in curved sections of track where the rails need to be adjusted periodically.

The main advantages of screw spikes are their adjustability, durability, and resistance to loosening. They are also easier to install and remove than common spikes. However, they are more expensive than common spikes and require special tools for installation and removal. They may also be more prone to corrosion due to their threaded design.

Compared to other types of spikes, such as dog spikes and hook spikes, screw spikes provide a more secure and adjustable fastening. They are particularly useful in curved sections of track where the rails need to be adjusted periodically. However, they are more expensive and require special tools for installation and removal. Overall, screw spikes are a useful alternative to common spikes in railway construction and maintenance, particularly in areas where adjustability is important.

Dog Spike

The dog spike, also known as the cut spike, is a type of railroad spike that is driven into the wooden tie with a sledgehammer or spike maul.

Dog spikes were first introduced in the early 19th century as a replacement for the earlier wooden pegs used to fasten rails to wooden ties. They are made of high-carbon steel and have a rectangular shank with a pointed end.

Dimensions and design

Dog spikes come in various lengths, ranging from 5.5 inches to 6.5 inches, with a diameter of around 9/16 inch. They have a rectangular shank with a pointed end, which allows them to be driven into the wooden tie with a sledgehammer or spike maul. The head of the dog spike is typically square in shape, with a width of around 1.5 inches.

Manufacturing process

The manufacturing process of dog spikes involves several steps, including forging, cutting, and heat treatment. The steel is heated to a high temperature and then forged into a rectangular shape. The spike is then cut to the desired length and the head is formed using a trimming machine. The spike is then heat-treated to increase its strength and hardness.

Usage and applications

Dog spikes are used to fasten the rails to the wooden ties in railway construction and maintenance. They are typically driven into the tie with a sledgehammer or spike maul. Dog spikes are particularly useful in straight sections of track where the rails do not need to be adjusted frequently.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantages of dog spikes are their low cost and simplicity. They are also durable and resistant to corrosion. However, they are less secure than other types of spikes and may loosen over time. They also require more labor to install and remove compared to other types of spikes.

Comparison to other types of spikes

Compared to other types of spikes, such as screw spikes and hook spikes, dog spikes are less secure and adjustable. They are generally used in straight sections of track where the rails do not need to be adjusted frequently. However, they are more cost-effective and simple to install and remove compared to other types of spikes. Overall, dog spikes remain a commonly used type of railroad spike in railway construction and maintenance.

Drive Spike

Drive spikes, also known as lag bolts or lag screws, are another type of railroad spike commonly used in modern railway construction and maintenance.

Drive spikes were introduced in the early 20th century as a replacement for the earlier dog spikes. They are typically made of high-carbon steel and feature a threaded shaft with a pointed end.

Dimensions and design

Drive spikes come in various lengths, ranging from 5 inches to 9 inches, with a diameter of around ¾ inch. They have a threaded shaft with a pointed end, which allows them to be screwed into the wooden tie using a wrench or impact driver. The head of the drive spike is typically square or hexagonal in shape, with a width of around 1.5 inches.

Manufacturing process

The manufacturing process of drive spikes involves several steps, including forging, cutting, threading, and heat treatment. The steel is heated to a high temperature and then forged into a rectangular shape. The spike is then cut to the desired length and threaded using a threading machine. The spike is then heat-treated to increase its strength and hardness.

Usage and applications

Drive spikes are used to fasten the rails to the wooden ties in railway construction and maintenance. They are typically screwed into the tie using a wrench or impact driver. Drive spikes are particularly useful in curved sections of track where the rails need to be adjusted frequently.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantages of drive spikes are their high holding power and adjustability. They are also resistant to loosening over time and can be easily removed and replaced. However, they are more expensive than other types of spikes and require specialized tools for installation and removal.

Comparison to other types of spikes

Compared to other types of spikes, such as dog spikes and screw spikes, drive spikes offer greater adjustability and holding power. They are commonly used in curved sections of track where the rails need to be adjusted frequently. However, they are more expensive and require specialized tools for installation and removal compared to other types of spikes. Overall, drive spikes remain a widely used type of railroad spike in railway construction and maintenance.

Hook Spike

Hook spikes, also known as T-head spikes, are a type of railroad spike that have been used in railway construction since the 1800s.

Hook spikes are named for their distinctive T-shaped head, which is designed to prevent the spike from being pulled out of the tie. They were first used in the mid-19th century and were commonly used in the construction of early railroads in the United States.

Dimensions and design

Hook spikes are typically around 5.5 inches long and have a diameter of around 9/16 inch. They have a T-shaped head that measures around 2 inches across and is around 5/16 inch thick. The head of the spike is designed to fit snugly against the rail, preventing it from moving.

Manufacturing process

Hook spikes are typically made of high-carbon steel and are produced using a forging process. The steel is heated to a high temperature and then hammered into shape using a press or drop hammer. The head of the spike is then formed using a rolling machine or a heading machine.

Usage and applications

Hook spikes are used to secure the rails to the wooden ties in railway construction and maintenance. They are typically installed using a hammer and are designed to provide a secure and stable connection between the rail and the tie.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantage of hook spikes is their ability to provide a secure and stable connection between the rail and the tie. They are also relatively easy to install using a hammer. However, they can be difficult to remove and are not as adjustable as other types of spikes. They can also be more expensive than other types of spikes due to their unique design.

Comparison to other types of spikes

Compared to other types of spikes, such as drive spikes and screw spikes, hook spikes are less adjustable and can be more difficult to remove. However, they are known for their stability and are commonly used in railroad construction and maintenance. Overall, hook spikes remain an important type of railroad spike in the history and modern use of railway construction.

Conclusion

In conclusion, railroad spikes are an essential component in railway construction and maintenance, as they help to secure the rails to the wooden ties. In this article, we have covered the different types of railroad spikes, including common spikes, screw spikes, dog spikes, drive spikes, and hook spikes, providing an overview of their definition, history, dimensions, design, manufacturing process, usage, applications, advantages, and disadvantages.

Understanding the different types of railroad spikes is important for those working in the railway industry or anyone with an interest in railway history and development. Each type of spike has its own unique features, advantages, and disadvantages, which make them suitable for different types of railway applications.

As the railway industry continues to evolve, there may be future developments and improvements in the design and manufacturing of railroad spikes. However, the importance of these small yet critical components in the functioning and safety of railways will continue to be paramount.

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