Can You Stick Weld Railroad Track: A Comprehensive DIY Guide

Stick welding railroad tracks is a challenging yet achievable task for DIY enthusiasts with advanced welding skills and technical expertise. This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricate details and step-by-step instructions to ensure a successful weld, covering everything from material selection to cooling techniques.

Material Considerations

Railroad tracks are typically made of high-carbon steel, which can be susceptible to cracking during the welding process. Understanding the material properties is crucial to mitigate the risk of defects.

  • Steel Composition: Railroad tracks are composed of a high-carbon steel alloy, typically containing 0.6-0.8% carbon content. This high carbon content makes the material more brittle and prone to cracking if not handled properly.
  • Crack Sensitivity: The high carbon content and the presence of other alloying elements, such as manganese and chromium, contribute to the crack-sensitive nature of railroad track steel. Careful pre-heating and post-weld cooling procedures are essential to prevent cracking.
  • Hardness: Railroad track steel is generally harder than mild steel, with a Rockwell hardness range of 30-40 HRC. This increased hardness can make the material more challenging to weld, requiring specialized techniques and equipment.

Pre-Heating Techniques

can you stick weld railroad trackImage source: Manual Metal Arc welding

Pre-heating the railroad track and the base material is a critical step in the welding process to ensure a successful and crack-free weld.

Pre-Heating Method Temperature Range
Weed Burning Torch 200-300°F (93-149°C)
Sidewalk Torch 300-400°F (149-204°C)
Propane Torch 400-500°F (204-260°C)
  • Uniform Heating: It is essential to ensure that the pre-heating is applied evenly across the entire weld area, including the railroad track and the base material. Uneven heating can lead to thermal stresses and increase the risk of cracking.
  • Temperature Monitoring: Use a temperature-indicating crayon or a digital thermometer to monitor the pre-heating temperature and ensure it remains within the recommended range throughout the welding process.
  • Insulation: Consider using insulating materials, such as fiberglass blankets or ceramic fiber pads, to help maintain the pre-heating temperature and slow the cooling rate after welding.

Stick Welding Techniques

Stick welding, also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), is a popular choice for welding railroad tracks due to its versatility and ability to handle thicker materials.

  • Welding Rods: Common electrode choices for stick welding railroad tracks include 6010, 7018, and 309L welding rods. These rods are specifically designed for high-carbon steel applications and can provide the necessary strength and ductility.
  • Stringer Bead Technique: It is recommended to use a stringer bead welding technique with a drag angle of approximately 15-20 degrees. This technique helps to minimize the heat input and reduce the risk of cracking.
  • Multi-Pass Welding: Depending on the thickness of the railroad track and the base material, multiple weld passes may be required. It is crucial to let the work cool between passes to avoid overheating and cracking.
  • Welding Parameters: Carefully adjust the welding current, voltage, and travel speed to achieve the optimal heat input and weld penetration. Consult the welding rod manufacturer’s recommendations for the specific parameters.

Peening the Weld

Peening the weld can help to reduce residual stresses and prevent cracking.

  • Peening Technique: Use a ball-peen hammer or a specialized peening tool to gently tap the weld bead. Apply light, uniform taps across the entire weld surface to distribute the heat and reduce the risk of cracking.
  • Timing: Perform the peening process immediately after the weld has cooled to a dull red color, typically within a few minutes of completing the weld.
  • Peening Angle: Maintain a peening angle of approximately 30-45 degrees to the weld surface to effectively distribute the stress and prevent cracking.

Slow Cooling Techniques

Proper cooling of the weld is crucial to prevent cracking and ensure the integrity of the joint.

  • Burying in Sand or Kitty Litter: After welding, bury the heated area in a bed of sand or kitty litter to slow the cooling rate and minimize the risk of cracking.
  • Insulation: Wrap the weld area with insulating materials, such as fiberglass blankets or ceramic fiber pads, to control the cooling rate and prevent rapid temperature changes.
  • Monitoring Cooling Rate: Use temperature-indicating crayons or a digital thermometer to monitor the cooling rate and ensure it remains within the recommended range to prevent cracking.


Stick welding railroad tracks is a challenging task that requires advanced welding skills, technical expertise, and a thorough understanding of the material properties. By following the detailed instructions and techniques outlined in this comprehensive guide, DIY enthusiasts can successfully weld railroad tracks while mitigating the risk of cracking and other defects.

Remember to always prioritize safety, use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and consult with experienced welders or professionals if you have any doubts or concerns during the welding process.