Cast Welding Rails, 1894

Falk Manufacturing Co Laid 3 Miles of Continuous Track at St Louis in 1894

Cast welding of rail joints was used in 1894 by the Falk Manufacturing Company in St Louis, as shown in the following publication: 


Cast-Welding of Rail Joints

The New Process of Making Continuous Track — A Promising Rival of Electric Welding Three Miles Laid at St Louis 
Street Railway Review, Volume IV, Windsor & Kenfield Publishers, Chicago, 1894.[1][2]


Like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky came the announcement, several months ago, that the Falk Manufacturing Company, of Milwaukee, would soon come forward with a process of welding cast iron around rail joints which would make a continuous track and seriously compete with electric welding. It was the suddenness with which this process came forward that startled the electric railway world. It is not often that any industrial method comes so absolutely without warning and apparently without any evolution. The usual course is a long series of experiments and investigations before even an attempt is made in a commercial way. Then after the commercial application begins there is a still further evolution.

Ready for work.
The process was shown at the Atlanta convention, and the constant throng of visitors which crowded around the place where the work was going on, and prevented many from seeing as much as they wished, showed how vitally important the work was considered to be and how anxious street railway men are to find something that will do away with those everlasting nuisances, the rail joints.
Immediately after convention, work began at St. Louis, and the joints have been cast on about three miles of track there. This track was laid some time ago, with common angle bar joints but no traffic has passed over the road except that of teams so that the track is practically new and on an equal basis with the electric welded track laid last spring. Besides that mentioned, 37 joints which have broken on the six miles of electrically welded track have been repaired by the cast-welding process. The latter work was done in two evenings' work of three hours each. The accompanying engravings show the work in progress.

         Cupola and crews.


The outfit used is nothing more than a small foundry cupola for melting the iron, mounted on wheels. This cupola wagon weighs 7,000 pounds (3,500 kg) complete and is easily drawn by two horses. The one used at St. Louis and shown in the engraving made 60 joints a day. The Falk Manufacturing Company is now completing several which will have a capacity of from 140 to 200 joints a day. The coal and coke box is located just behind the driver's seat. The cupola is hung on pivots similar to a mariner's compass so that it is always kept level even though the wagon may be standing on a grade. Behind the cupola is a small steam engine with a water tube boiler. The engine takes care of itself to a large extent as the water feed is automatic being regulated by the height of the water in the boiler. The oil fuel flow is regulated by the pressure of steam. The engine drives a blower for furnishing an air blast to the cupola. The air pipe between the blower and cupola has a flexible joint to allow for the movement of the cupola on its pivots. Under the engine can be seen the tank for water supply.

Metal running.


In operation the first thing, of course, is to dig up the paving and expose the joints. Meanwhile the molds which are of common cast iron are thrown in a heap somewhere near by and a fire built around them so that by the time they are to be put around the joints they are a dull red. The molds are lined with a composition of graphite and another substance the nature of which is not given out. This composition is applied with an ordinary paint brush. The molds are relined in this way for about every 20 joints cast in them. They can be lined while hot and it takes about half a minute to reline a pair. Before the molds are applied the rails near the ends are cleaned and if the ends do not butt together closely a thin section of rail is driven in to fill the crack. The molds are then put around the joints. The iron is then poured in the molds from a ladle as in an ordinary foundry. The union between the iron and steel of the rail is similar to that which takes place in a good weld and hence the term cast-welding is applied to the process by the Falk company. Sections through joints and pieces of casting broken off show that the same state of union exists as with a good weld.
As shown in the engravings the molds have eyebolts so that they can be handled with iron hooks. They are held in place with ordinary clamps and are of such shape as to fit up snugly against the rails and hold them firmly in line until the joint has cooled. As shown in the engravings the cracks on top between molds and rails are filled with clay and sand. A plate of iron is laid over the crack between the ends of the rails so that when the iron attempts to rise there it is suddenly chilled and prevented from flowing out on top of the rail. Underneath the molds the crack between the halves is closed by holding a pan of sand up against it. The molds can be put on a joint in about two minutes. As said before the molds are hot when put on and they are allowed to stay on long enough to heat the rail ends. After the iron has been poured in about ten minutes is allowed to elapse before the molds are taken off and put on another joint. About a dozen sets of molds are kept in use at once. Every other joint of a section of track is cast in the morning and in the afternoon the remaining joints are cast. This is to prevent, as far as possible, the severe strain of contraction and expansion. When the the joint is hot it heats the rail for some distance on each side and consequently there is considerable expansion. There is a corresponding contraction when the joint cools. The effects of this were feared enough so that the above method has been used to prevent the strain to some extent.


 Molds on joints.


The joint made at St. Louis weighed 120 pounds (60 kg). The joints can, of course, be made of any weight. Those made by the company at first weighed 54 pounds (27 kg). The 54-pound joint placed on blocks two feet apart has when tested stood a downward pressure of 100,000 pounds. The 120-pound joint covers four bolt-holes. The material used is common cast iron with a secret composition mixed therewith. The cast iron is selected with a view to great tensile strength. The cost of a joint is about $3.
In the engraving showing the wagon and force of men employed on the work there are about eight who are employed in the actual operation of running the cupola and casting the joints. The rest are for digging up the pavement. Iron is unloaded along the street at the places where it will be needed.

  Filling molds.


If it is found to stand the test of time this process will have some marked advantages over electric welding. In the first place the initial cost of apparatus is nowhere near that of an electric welder, and it is also much less delicate and costly to maintain. The electric welder also requires from 250 to 300-horse-power from the power station. While on a large system this is easily provided for, it is a seriously large item for a small road. When construction work is being rapidly pushed the fact that the trolley wire does not have to be strung before the track is completed will prove an advantage as well as the rapidity of the cast-welding process. With the casting method there is no heavy welding machine to run over and bend the track out of shape before the joints are set.


There are not many roads that can afford to keep on hand a welding machine for mending broken joints and doing odd jobs around a system, but a cupola large enough to do such work can be supplied at a cost of less than $1,000, so that there need be no angle bar joints on an entire road. No special skill is required on the part of the men employed except the man who runs the cupola. Electric welding, especially of steel, is as is well known, a process in which the skill and experience of the operators plays a vitally important part. The facility with which broken and defective joints are repaired by the cast-welding process is an important point. Defective joints will appear with both systems. The question is how best to handle them. With electric welding it is necessary to saw out the joint (if the break is such that it can not be repaired by re-welding) and insert a new section of rail which requires two joints where one was before. With the cast-iron joint it is only necessary that the top or ball of the rail be continuous. If it is not continuous a short piece can be put in and the mass of metal cast around the break will make a good joint.


  Joints finished.


A peculiar feature of the cast joints as now made is that the welding action between the rail and casting takes place around the base and about two-thirds of the way up the web of the rail but not around the head and upper part of the web. This is as it is intended to be because if the joint is defective and breaks, the head of the rail remains intact. The manner in which the non-welding of the upper part is accomplished is interesting. When the iron is poured the quantity of melted metal around the base is so great that it heats that part of the rail nearly to its own temperature and a union takes place between the metals. In the upper part of the joint the small mass of hot metal is not sufficient to heat the head and upper web hot enough to make a weld.

54 pound joint.
54 pound joint.

The Falk company is confident that the continuous rail will prove a success, but in case it does not they have another plan to fall back on which would still make a very superior joint. By painting the rail with a secret Hquid before the metal is run in, the welding action is prevented and a solid mechanical joint is made, which allows for contraction and expansion. It should be said here that the failure of the few joints mentioned on the electrically welded track of the Baden Railway at St. Louis is not to be taken as pointing against the use of continuous track, as the joints which broke were defective and not fair specimens of the electric welding process.


Lug knocked off defective electric weld.
Lug knocked off defective electric weld.

The accompanying engraving, which is of one of the lugs knocked off of a broken electrically welded joint, shows that welding took place only at two or three places of small area. The lugs on the defective joints were knocked off with a light sledge.
The results at St. Louis will be awaited with intense interest and the outcome of the winter's trial means much to the street railway business. To Captain Robt. McCulloch, general manager of the National Railway Company's lines, of Louis, is due the thanks of the entire fraternity, for his zeal in experimenting and sifting the continuous rail problem to the bottom. He has shown the same progressive spirit in this as in many other matters relating to street railway welfare, and the fraternity is to be congratulated on having him as a member.


  1. Cast-Welding Rail Joints. The New Process of Making Continuous Track — A Promising Rival of Electric Welding — Three Miles Laid at St Louis. Street Railway Review, Volume IV, Windsor & Kenfield Publishers, Chicago, 1894.
  2. Cast Welding Rail Joints. Scientific American, 16 February 1895, page 100 and page 101.