Wow! Very informative - great post. Thanks hcambron.
I have been reading the postings on railroad spikes through the various knife forums and found that there is a lot of confusion when it comes to carbon content and head markings. I have been looking for the answers to a couple of questions: are there low and high carbon versions of spikes, what do the heads markings mean, and does “HC” really mean High Carbon?
I did a search on Google for railroad equipment and came up with the names of the major railroads and companies that supply them. I must have sent out over 20 e-mails asking for information on spikes. This is what I found:
Spikes purchased by the major railroads conform to the standards set down by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association. A.R.E.M.A. was formed in 1997 by the merger of the American Railway Bridge and Building Association, the American Railway Engineering Association (A.R.E.A.) and the Roadmasters and Maintenance of Way Association along with certain functions of the Association of American Railroads.
Through one of my e-mail contacts, I obtained a copy of the A.R.E.A. manual chapter that deals with Track Spikes. In essence, it identifies two versions of spikes, one soft-steel and one high-carbon. Soft-Steel spikes contain anywhere from a minimum of 0.06 to 0.20 percent carbon (reference sec. 2.1.3). The head of Soft-Steel spikes are marked with a letter or brand indicating the manufacturer (reference sec. 2.1.11). High-Carbon spikes contain anywhere from a minimum of 0.20 to 0.30 percent carbon (reference sec. 2.2.3) The head of High-Carbon spikes are marked with a letter or brand indicating the manufacturer and also the letters “HC” (reference sec. 2.2.11). If copper is added to either version, the head will be marked with the letters “CU” (reference sec. 2.1.11 & 2.2.11). I have a .pdf version of this chapter which I will post on my web site once I work out some bugs.
Gerdau Ameristeel is the largest producer of spikes in North America (http://www.gerdauameristeel.com). They offer six variations of A.R.E.A. spikes, and can produce, on request, 14 other variations. Their brand mark is similar to the dollar symbol, ($) an S with a line through it. One of the variations that they produce is a Medium Carbon Spike which has a minimum of 0.25 percent carbon and is marked “MC”. This 0.25 percent of carbon is within the range that they use for their High Carbon spikes so I believe that knives made from them would be near the performance of a HC spike knife.
I have some photos of the various spikes that I have found while walking old rail beds near my home. I will post those as soon as possible.
For those who might be interested, the following companies sell spikes:
Harmer Steel (http://www.harmersteel.com).
Birmingham Rail & Locomotive Co. (http://www.bhamrail.com).
Pohl Corp. (http://www.pohlcorp.com/Spk_trk.htm).
Railroad Tools and Solutions, LLC (http://www.rrtoolsnsolutions.com).
McMaster-Carr (http://www.mcmaster.com). Look for item # 97897A779.
And you can obtain a copy of the current 2005 A.R.E.M.A. manual from their web site (http://www.arema.org).
Wow! Very informative - great post. Thanks hcambron.
Welcome to Bladeforums, hcambron!
We have a knifemaker's section here where all the grinders and pounders come to share and BS. It's found at the top of your screen where it reads "Makers". If you get hold of other juicy knifemaking info like this first post, go post there and we'll eat it up! I think this post would be right at home over there where it can have it's maximum info impact.
Moderators, think we can move this thread over to Shop Talk?
I have a question , I have seen a few folks on here have gotten ahold of a small section of rail , usually from someone else , my boss has a 3 foot section that he got from his dad , so where do you get a hunk of rail ? hehe.
I would love to make a little anvil. Anyone ever seen a hunk of rail laying around while walking for spikes ?.
Thanks , Todd
Got my rail from a relative in the business. Was picked up as scrap from a retracking job. Lots of spikes too.
Welcome to Bladeforums! I'll move this thread to Shop Talk for you.
Great first post, glad you found us!
Welcome aboard Henry. Good stuff, very informative. Glad you found the place lots of great folks and information here.
Got your email.
Also got a stack of schedule 60 rebar in various sizes for you to play with when you get tired of the spikes. Your's whenever you want them.
I work for a large railroad and i have used the hc marked spikes(i have an unlimited supply) and they still suck as far as being a decent knife cant seam to get them hard enought to hold an edge.
To get spikes and rail sections,go to the railroad maintenance yard (there is one near every city with rail service).Go in and talk to the supervisor(go early in the morning,they get out on the track early).He will usually give you all the spikes you can use,rail cut offs,and all kinds of neat stuff in their junk pile.Take a knife you forged along in the car,if he asks,show it to him.Many of those old guys remember some great stories about blacksmiths (and love to tell them).
It is better to die fighting evil than to live under it.
Gotta like this guy coming right in with his first post citing sources and facts about something that gets kicked around every 6 months. Welcome to the forum, glad to have you....
I was finally able to fix the problem with my web site. Here is a link to a couple of photos of CU and MC spikes and there is a link at the bottom of the page to the .pdf copy of the A.R.E.A. chapter. http://worldclassknives.com/spikes/.
Thanks for all the kind words.
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