Activities‎ > ‎

Train of Thought

You may already know about our new "Train of Thought" section through the sites homepage. We will be updating these more regularly and all new entries will still be placed on the homepage. However! You can always find past entries here, on the Train of Thought page.

For even more up-to-date rail information, follow the critically acclaimed @PrairieRail twitter account!

How do Trains Change Tracks?
How does a solid steel wheel with flanges change track? To find out more, watch this short video below! Thousands of these switches are needed in a rail network for our freight to get where it needs to go each day.


Ever wonder how a train stays on the tracks, especially through curves?? I'll give you a hint: it's not the flanges! Watch this short educational video by American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman from the BBC series "Fun to Imagine". Also, there is a new section under "Activities" for archived Train of Thought entries.

Steel Ties

Steel ties are seen as a cost effective alternative to wood and concrete as they use a smaller ballast section, stack well reducing transportation costs and only require a hook-in shoulder and e-clip to assemble which improves installation time.  They are environmentally friendly compared to traditional creosote wood ties and can be recycled. They maintain gauge well and come pre-punched which allows a lot more flexibility in custom turnouts or special track configurations.


Steel ties take more time to tamp compared to wood, concrete and composite ties.  The steel tie design has evolved over the years so historical usage, wear and performance data on the latest models are not as widely available.   Their use to date is primarily in slower speed track and yards, and have been installed in some extreme climates.  They are not insulated and require special pads and fasteners should insulated track be required but some companies prefer not to use them in signalized track as the pad may deteriorate over time and cause problems to their signal systems.  There are also challenges incorporating conventional track components into steel tie trackage .  Some class 1 railway’s do not recommend their use in industrial tracks, unless prior approval is granted. 

    - Explanation and images provided by Brendan Machado,  EIT, AECOM Freight Rail Canada, West