What goes into running a train: The rail track

Get to know the basics of what all goes into getting a train up and running, starting with the rail track.

The rail track by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

A Railway track comprises of two rails laid at a fixed distance apart. This distance at which they are kept apart is called the gauge.

By Joe ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection

The gauge has to be constant on one stretch of track, or else, the trains that run on it will keep falling off.

Four different types of gauges by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

The video shows how railway tracks are made.

In India, the tracks are laid in three different types of gauges – broad gauge, meter gauge and narrow gauge.

Train passing through narrow gauges in mountainous areas by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

On the Indian Railways, the gauge that is most common is referred to as the broad gauge, which measures 1676 mm between the rails.

Some of the Princely states in India were permitted to build rail lines to the meter gauge. This was done to save the finances, as a smaller gauge is much cheaper.

In the mountainous areas and in some Princely states, narrow gauges were built to save money. Two such gauges that were made still exist in the country. One is the 762 mm gauge and the other 610 mm.

Two rail tracks kept apart by a 'sleeper' by JL SinghRail Enthusiasts' Society

The two rails are kept apart by a 'sleeper'. Today, most sleepers are made of concrete, whereas in the past, sleepers were made of wood, steel and cast iron.

Steel fasteners are used to fix the rails on the sleepers. This frame of rails and sleepers is then laid on a bed of ballast which comprises mostly of broken stones. The sleepers are embedded in the ballast.

By Joe ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection

In the cities and on station platforms, you may not see any ballast, as the rails are laid in concrete.

It is only after the track is laid that you have a railway.

Credits: Story

JL Singh

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