Transportation Rail Federal agencies

FRA issues advisory on potential rail pitting, cracking caused by electric welding

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Washington — The Federal Railroad Administration has published a safety advisory on potential damage to train rails caused by pressure electric welding.

FRA defines pressure electric welding as “the process of using a hydraulically operated welding head that clamps around two opposing rail ends, pressing an electrode on each rail, then hydraulically pulling the rail ends together while arcing current through the electrodes into the rails, causing them to essentially melt together to form a continuous rail.”

The advisory, published in the July 27 Federal Register, cautions that stray arcing from the process can result in electrode-induced burns or pits on the rail that may lead to fractures and rail failure.

FRA states in the notice that it shared its concerns with the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee’s Rail Integrity Working Group and took into consideration comments from the Association of American Railroads, which claims that railroads and welding companies have procedures in place to address the issue of electrode pitting.

The agency agreed with AAR’s comments and, instead of issuing formal recommendations, is reminding railroads, contractors and the rail welding industry “to be diligent in complying with existing practices and procedures designed to prevent electrode-induced pitting in rail and to mitigate the pitting when it does occur.”

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