The Importance of Regular Track Inspections

A railroad track that’s in disrepair can be a source of significant losses because of delays, malfunctions, and the potential for derailments. To avoid significant damage to rail cars and cargo, as well as serious injury and even loss of life, derailments and other railway accidents must be avoided at all costs. To that end, regular track inspections are a must, as poor track conditions are the leading cause of derailments and other accidents.

What Track Inspectors Look For

Track inspectors are looking for unsound and unsafe rail conditions that could lead to accident or injury. A few of these conditions include:

  • Uneven gauge—The inspector will ensure that the rails have not shifted, creating an unacceptable gauge. If the rails are not the appropriate distance apart along their entire length, the inspector will determine the cause of the shift, and how it should be fixed.
  • Rail breaks—Any points where the rails have cracked or split will be noted and flagged for repair.
  • Failed or failing joints—The seam where two rails join will be inspected to ensure they are flush.
  • Rotten or decaying ties—Even if the rails haven’t yet shifted or spread, if the ties holding them together are decaying, then it’s only a matter of time, so those ties should be replaced.
  • Word rail heads—Wheels are much more likely to slip from rails with worn heads, so rails exhibiting such wear should be replaced.
  • Standing, bent, or missing spikes—Spikes should be gripping the rail tightly to keep it in place. If any spikes are standing (sticking up and loose), misshapen, or, worst of all, gone, they need to be replaced.
  • Standing water—Standing water between the rails generally indicates a problem with the ballast or the substrate, and if uncorrected, will eventually lead to more serious problems like rotten ties or shifting rails.

Sharp & Fellows Inspection and Maintenance

Regular inspections should be part of every rail maintenance plan to keep train running smoothly. Delays and accidents are costly and dangerous. At Sharp & Fellows, Inc., our Federal Railroad Administration Qualified inspectors can offer you detailed inspection reports to show you where your rails are in danger of failing. Then, we’ll create a repair proposal for you. With 130 years of railroad design and construction experience, you can trust us to get your line back in top condition. We offer monthly maintenance programs for continued upkeep, as well. Visit us at or call us at 310-323-7784 today.