Project author: Gareth Dennis
Project supervisor: Dr Martin Crapper

This website was created to introduce the various aspects considered in the MEng Thesis of Gareth Dennis and will continue to be updated as part of the project.

Photo credits: © 2013 Gareth Dennis
unless otherwise stated

The heritage railway sector accounts for a notable proportion of the UK tourist industry. In 2011, heritage lines earned £92 million and carried 7.1 million passengers (HRA, 2013). Over 530 miles of preserved lines exist, and this number is steadily increasing.

These lines are primarily run by a volunteer workforce and as a result industry practice can be varied. Such lines are often managed within an environment with restrictive financial, material and labour resources with infrastructure tending to consist of either original or reused stock. Such track systems may be varied in type and wear.

The problem
The current nature of the heritage railway sector means that no single method regarding the management of steel rails has been established. This includes the measurement of rail wear, the determination of the consequences of such wear and limits of rail use based on the likely residual strength of worn rails.

The majority of the track system on heritage lines is antiquated and usage records associated with specific lengths of rail are usually lost in transit or are out of date. This means that wear must be measured in-situ and there is no single guideline as to the method by which this is carried out. High-tech methods for measuring crack propagation and rail head-wear exist, however these are expensive and unjustified for smaller railways.

The structural impacts for heavily worn rails are also relatively unknown, with knowledge being arcane and based on sporadic research carried out throughout the 1900s. The extent and accuracy of this research will be explored by means of a thorough literature survey.

For a detailed outline of the aims and objectives of this project, go to the Project Scope section of the website.
The solution

This project aims to determine acceptable operating limits for worn rails on these lines, and establish the requirement for a new set of guidelines specifically regulating rail wear in the heritage railway industry. Considerations will be made from the perspective of both the heritage railway industry and rail regulatory bodies.

To find out more about the various aspects of this project and how it aims to help overcome these problems, follow the links on the left.

For regular updates, see the News & Updates section of the website.

Published works

Following submission of this thesis in April 2013, a derivative peer-reviewed paper is being presented at the 12th International Railway Engineering Conference and Exhibition. Additionally, a secondary journal paper expanding the theoretical approach to estimating wear limits is being generated.

Dennis, G. A., & Crapper, M., 2013, Limits for Acceptable Use of Worn Rails on UK Standard Gauge Heritage Railways. In: 12th International Railway Engineering Conference and Exhibition, London, 10-11 July 2013.