British Railway Track

Another classic book it sure is “British Railway Track Design, Construction and Maintenance”, edited by Geoffrey H Cope and having around 40 contributors for writing the 30 chapters of this essential track compendium. Its last six edition was published in 1993 by The Permanent Way Institution.


Presenting the essential principles but also the British specifics of Railway track design, construction and maintenance, the book is written in a very descriptive and logical style,  showing elementary engineering concepts (geometry, dimensions, velocity and speed, forces, the basic definition of cant) but also very specific an well detailed subjects as the rails (from metallurgy to welding and  rail defects) fastenings, sleepers, S&C, ballast, subgrade and earthworks. It does not forget trackside safety and organisation and planning of maintenance works.

Although more than 20 years old, this book is  classic, with almost all its information still up to date, relevant and essential for a good permanent way engineer.

One of the many things I enjoyed reading it was the good description of the track geometry concepts. Here is one – the definition of the vertical curves and of the limitation of the gravitational acceleration over vertical curves.


The book shows the definition of the vertical parabola and why, with close approximation, this can be defined as a circle.

I will come back on this subject later on, in a separate post.

Another important chapters, not usually present in track books, are the ones presenting the gauging and the measurement and analysis of track geometry.

3 thoughts on “British Railway Track

  1. If you search hard enough you might find an even older edition of the book – I have the one from 1971 which is quite interesting also and significantly different from the one I commented about here.


  2. Hi Lisa. This edition was published in 1993 by the Permanent Way Institution.
    Check on Amazon or ebay – I don’t think PWI has this edition on sale.
    But there are other good permanent way books published by them which you can use. Check their online bookshop:
    I’ve seen Understanding Track Engineering – it is quite good.


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