Stainless bearings for Australian railway

In order to maximise durability, the newly installed structural bearings of an Australian railway bridge were fabricated from stainless steel rather than carbon steel – ensuring the longest possible service life and minimising disruption to rail traffic from future replacement works.

The Australian railway company ARTC (Australian Rail Track Corporation) knows the costs of bearing replacement work on the bridges across its network. These costs are typically considerably higher than arise in the case of a comparable road bridge, due to rail-specific challenges such as the expense and difficulties of re-routing or stopping rail traffic, and the more complex safety procedures and infrastructure associated with railway transport. The relevant ARTC design and construction specification therefore stipulated that bearings used in this structure must be fabricated from stainless steel rather than carbon steel – minimising the risk of corrosion and therefore maximising the service life that might be expected in this regard.

Although the vast majority of the steel bearings produced by mageba over the last almost six decades have predominantly used steel of the carbon type, the RESTON®SPHERICAL bearings required for the Gawler River Rail Bridge near Adelaide in southern Australia were not the first stainless steel bearings mageba has produced – previous examples including the North Manama Causeway in Bahrain (pot bearings), the JTI Headquarters building in Switzerland (spherical bearings) and St. Patrick’s Footbridge in Canada (linear rocker bearings). However, it is still very rare for projects to specify that structural bearings should be of stainless steel, so it is special when the opportunity comes along to design and fabricate using this quite different material.

While structural bearings of stainless steel are generally more expensive than carbon steel alternatives, their use may well substantially reduce long-term costs by minimising the need to replace them as a result of a longer service life – especially when indirect costs such as traffic management and traffic disruption are considered. And even more so when the environmental benefits of maximising service life are taken into account – benefits that we build upon by manufacturing as locally as possible to minimise transport, with these bearings fabricated in our Australian production facility and tested in our Australian NATA-certified testing laboratory.

Bridge designer: Tonkin Consulting Pty Ltd
Contractor: Bardavcol Pty Ltd
Owner: Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)

The Gawler River Rail Bridge near Adelaide in southern Australia as reconstructed in 2021 with mageba bearings supporting both ends (© ARTC)

The RESTON®SPHERICAL bearings supplied for the Gawler River Rail Bridge (one shown here prior to grouting) were designed to either allow movement along one axis or to resist all movements (© ARTC)

A RESTON®SPHERICAL bearing during installation in the Gawler River Rail Bridge, following grouting but before removal of formwork (© ARTC)

This stainless steel bearing of the RESTON®POT type (shown here in partially assembled state) was manufactured in 2012 for the North Manama Causeway in Bahrain

This stainless steel bearing of the RESTON® SPHERICAL type was used in the 2013 construction of the JTI Headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland

This stainless steel bearing of the RESTON®LINEAR type – a linear rocker bearing – was manufactured in 2013 for St. Patrick’s Footbridge in Calgary, Canada