Swiss railway field tests white paint to keep tracks from buckling

The paint is currently being tested by the rail company on a section of track in Graubünden, between the villages of Küblis and Fideris. Keystone

The Rhaetian RailwayExternal link in the eastern Swiss canton of Graubünden is testing a technique commonly used in Italy to fight the distorting effects of heat on metal: painting the tracks white.

This content was published on July 28, 2018 - 17:44

The goal is to keep the metal tracks from deforming or buckling in the heat, which has affected the whole country in one of the hottest Julys on record.

The white coating is currently being tested on a 300-metre (984-foot) section of track in Graubünden, between the villages of Küblis and Fideris. The paint was applied in mid-June, just in time to exert its effects in the full summer heat.

In theory, the temperature of the tracks could be reduced by as much as seven degrees as a result of the treatment, Yvonne Dünser, a spokesperson for the Rhaetian Railway, told the Swiss News Agency, ATS. The results will be assessed when it is less warm.

Rail research

A study by the Swiss Federal Technology Institute ETH Zurich showed that white paint had a positive impact in strong sunlight. The researchers then turned to the Rhaetian Railway as a practical test subject.

If a railway track buckles or is deformed by more than 50 millimetres, it should not be used to carry a train. During the summer of 2015, the heat affected the tracks of the Rhaetian Railway so severely that the trains were temporarily stopped between the village of Arosa and Graubünden’s capital city of Chur, and replaced by a bus.

Painting tracks white to combat the heat’s effects  has already been common practice in Italy for the past several years.

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