Rail Infrastructure

Rail Turnouts: What they Are and Why they Matter

As a railfan, you may have seen rail turnouts, also known as switches or points, on the railway tracks. These devices play a crucial role in directing trains onto different tracks, allowing them to switch from one route to another.

Switching Tracks

A rail turnout is essentially a mechanical device that allows trains to move from one track to another. The device is made up of several components, including the switch rail, which is the movable rail that directs the train onto the desired track. The stock rail is the fixed rail that the switch rail moves against, and the frog is the central part of the turnout where the two rails intersect.

Signal or Switch Stand

Turnouts are usually controlled by a switch stand or a signal system, allowing the train operator to change the direction of the switch rail and move the train onto the desired track. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the type of track and the speed of the trains.

Rail turnouts are a critical component of the railway system, as they allow trains to navigate complex networks of tracks and routes. They also play a crucial role in preventing accidents, as they can be used to divert trains away from potential hazards.

Engineering Design

As a railfan, it’s important to appreciate the engineering and design that goes into creating a functional and efficient rail turnout. Take the time to observe how turnouts are used in real-world situations, and appreciate how they help keep the railway system running safely and smoothly.

Rail turnouts may seem like small and insignificant components of the railway system, but they play a critical role in keeping trains running safely and efficiently. Take the time to learn about these fascinating devices, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the complexity and engineering of the railway system.