Rail lengths

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Rail lengths are made as long as possible, as joints between rails are a source of weakness. Over the decades, lengths increased as manufacturing processes improved.

The following are lengths from the steel mill, without any thermite welding. However shorter rails may be welded with flashbutt welding.


  • (the following rails are not welded from shorter lengths)
  • (1940s) United States 78 feet (23.77 m) US [3]

Welding of rails into longer lengths was first introduced around 1893.

  • (1950) Australia 240 feet (73.15 m) welded - (4 x 60 feet or 18.29 metres) [4]


Newer longer rails tend to be made as simple multiples of older shorter rails, so that old rails can be replaced without cutting. Some cutting would be needed as slightly longer rails are needed on the outside of sharp curves compared to the rails on the inside.


Rails can be supplied pre-drilled with boltholes for fishplates or without where they will be welded into place.

There are usually 2 boltholes or 3 boltholes.

See also[edit]