Fracture of a Rail Arising From Flame-Cutting
To permit bolting of a 90 lb/yd. flat-bottomed rail to a steel structure, rectangular slots 2 in. wide x 1 in. deep were flame-cut in the base of the rail at 2 ft intervals to suit existing bolt holes. During subsequent handling, one of the rails (which were about 25 ft long) was dropped from a height of approximately 6 ft on to a concrete floor and it fractured into 11 pieces, each break occurring at a slot. The sample piece submitted for examination showed a wholly brittle fracture at each end, the fractures having originated at the sharp corners of the slots. During flame-cutting, a narrow band of material on each side of the cut was raised above the hardening temperature. When the torch had passed the rate of abstraction of heat from this zone by conduction into the cold mass of the rail was sufficiently rapid to amount to a quench and thus cause local hardening. The steel in the regions of the slots possessed little capacity for deformation, and fracturing of the martensitic layer, under cooling or impact stresses, would be likely to occur. The slots should have been cut mechanically.