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# Railway Engineering: Points and Crossings - Important Terms

Points and crossings are provided to help transfer railway vehicles from one track to another. The tracks may be parallel to, diverging from, or converging with each other.

Points and Crossings

Introduction

Points and crossings are provided to help transfer railway vehicles from one track to another. The tracks may be parallel to, diverging from, or converging with each other. Points and crossings are necessary because the wheels of railway vehicles are provided with inside flanges and, therefore, they require this special arrangement in order to navigate their way on the rails. The points or switches aid in diverting the vehicles and the crossings provide gaps in the rails so as to help the flanged wheels to roll over them. A complete set of points and crossings, along with lead rails, is called a turnout.

Important Terms

The following terms are often used in the design of points and crossings.

Turnout It is an arrangement of points and crossings with lead rails by means of which the rolling stock may be diverted from one track to another. Figure 14.1(a) shows the various constituents of a turnout. The details of these constituents are given in Table 14.1.

Direction of a turnout A turnout is designated as a right-hand or a left-hand turnout depending on whether it diverts the traffic to the right or to the left. In Fig. 14.1(a), the turnout is a right-hand turnout because it diverts as the traffic towards the right side. Figure 14.1(b) shows a left-hand turnout. The direction of a point (or turnout) is known as the facing direction if a vehicle approaching the turnout or a point has to first face the thin end of the switch. The direction is trailing direction if the vehicle has to negotiate a switch in the trailing direction i.e., the vehicle first negotiates the crossing and then finally traverses on the switch from its thick end to its thin end. Therefore, when standing at the toe of a switch, if one looks in the direction of the crossing, it is called the facing direction and the opposite direction is called the trailing direction.

Tongue rail It is a tapered movable rail, made of high-carbon or -manganese steel to withstand wear. At its thicker end, it is attached to a running rail. A tongue rail is also called a switch rail.

Stock rail It is the running rail against which a tongue rail operates.

Points or switch A pair of tongue and stock rails with the necessary connections and fittings forms a switch.

Crossing A crossing is a device introduced at the junction where two rails cross each other to permit the wheel flange of a railway vehicle to pass from one track to another.

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