Inspired by another thread and something I saw on the road the other day:
I saw a flatbed trailer transporting a load of train wheels down the interstate the other day and wondered how is this more efficient than transporting by rail. The only place that the wheels will ever need to go to would have rail access (unless the wheels are for restoration of a piece of equipment that is for display). I am sure most foundrys have rail access, so why not just transport by rail?
Why do some train wheels get transported by highway?
I think they are usually being transported between repair/maintenance depots and railyards. You’re correct that most rail repair etc. occurs at the obvious location next to tracks somewhere, but I think these days not all work is done in the yards any more. The welding and metal shops that fabricate, repair and maintain rail axles are located away from rails and the axle assemblies thus need to be transported by road.
Could be worse, they could need a DreamLifter to move them around.
Train wheels are probably not fabricated at the same factory where other train companents are made, or where trains are assembled. I imagine they are forged at some steel plant, and there is no particular reason why a forging factory that makes relative small components would need to be directly connected to the rail system.
Trains work best with large volumes. Train wheels are not a big seller in these terms, and as said above, they might well be fabricated in a workshop with no rail access.
On a similar theme, we often see brand new, fully complete rail carriages on trailers heading down the M1 from Derby to London. Both ends are on the rail network but I am told that it is just too much trouble to find a slot for this traffic.
Unlike the electrical grid, not every train track on the continent is connected to every other track, especially in the case of commuter or subway lines. Yes, the wheel foundry may be on a rail line, but it’s probably not on the line that needs wheels, so they get loaded on trucks and driven to wherever they’re needed.
They may also be old ones going for scrap.
Just to put it all in context, everyone does realize that the DreamLifter super cargo jet that was briefly trapped at a small airport was carrying… a complete 787 fuselage? Such things were never done in the past; aircraft were built from raw material and small components at one site. So however the railroads might have done it in the past, shopping out their wheel/axle fab and maintenance is probably not all that unusual today.
Just the wheels by themselves ?
2 Wheels connected by an axle, which I believe is called a wheel set.
2 wheel sets connected together. Therefore 4 wheels and 2 axles all held together. This I believe is called a “Truck”
Next time you see a train notice that it is 2 rail trucks and a total of 8 wheels per car.
Train wheels take a lot of wear and tear and have to be periodically taken off the cars, and re-worked, re-set to true, rebalanced, etc. Just like our cars those rail trucks go out of whack also. Every city subway has a huge yard and a building for this work. And subways are considered light rail.
Been in one of those buildings. Quite amazing seeing all that stuff being moved around and worked on.
There are also steel tyres. These are rims of wheels, which are attached to the insides of wheels by heating them. (I know about train wheels and tyres because I worked on them for about 3 months at a steel works.)
And car trucks are usually called bogies in Australia.
Railroads today focus on bulk cargos. Things that can fit easily on trucks get to their destination much faster and possibly cheaper than if put on a flatcar that would take weeks to be picked up, sorted through several switching yards, moved in a couple of slow manifest freight trains, then finally shoved through a factory gate by the local switcher patrol.