Why Are Railroad Wheels Made Out of Steel?


Have you ever wondered why your car’s tires are made out of rubber and train’s wheels are not? The next time you watch a train go by or ride one, check it out. The wheels will be made out of steel, and they are made out of steel for a few reasons.


First, did you know that road vehicles lose a ton of energy just by pushing its tires down the road? Tires made out of rubber bend and they wear out relatively quickly. Rubber tires bend, unbend, and rebend thousands of time on a given trip, and at least a quarter of the power your engine produces will go towards your tires. If you have a high gas bill, you might want to blame your tires.


Now, the thing about ground friction is that it is relative to weight. A car may be heavy relative to a human being, but a car is extremely light when compared to a locomotive train. Even a semi-truck pales in comparison to a train. The amount of energy lost due to rubber wheels rubbing on asphalt streets is acceptable because these vehicles are lightweight.


A train would be a different story, which is one of the big reasons why railroad wheels are made out of steel. The Steel Interstate Coalition says that a steel wheel in contact with a steel rail can reduce ground friction by 85-99%. When you’re moving heavy goods on a train thousands of miles, you will need the most energy-efficient process for doing it. Rail represents the most efficient mode because of this significant reduction in ground friction.


Also, please keep in mind that using steel wheels is more environmentally-friendly than using rubber. The next time you go out for a ride in your vehicle feel the tires afterwards. They are going to feel very warm to the touch. A lot of heat is generated as vehicle tires rub on asphalt, leading to the wearing down of those tires. When they wear down enough, you will need to buy new tires. And all of those rubber particles from wearing down go into the air and water, fouling them up for years.


At Rebling, we produce rail components for steel wheel systems and more, including battery lithium terminals and bulkhead mounted receptacles. Our components help power the railroad, which provide the most energy-efficient way of bringing goods from one place to another.

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