Established in 1858 by John Taylor, the Sandiacre based foundry in Nottingham that is now known as Cast Iron Products (CIP) and is operated by Progress Rail Services UK has been through many changes. But one thing that has remained unchanged for over a century is the quality of the castings supplied to the rail industry.

CIP is renowned throughout the world for producing grey iron, SG iron and compacted graphite castings predominantly for the rail industry, but it also supplies speciality work to related industries and even the nuclear industry.

This well-established business in the heart of the UK has supplied cast iron rail components and ancillary products for many years to organisations such as London Underground, Network Rail and even MTR in Hong Kong. Indeed, 10% of CIP products are currently exported, a figure which looks likely to increase over the next few years.

Safety is key

Steve Partridge is foundry manager for Progress Rail UK and the main link between the customer, sales department, planning and production. He organises a total of 50 staff and manages the customer journey from the initial acceptance of the order right through to manufacturing and processing the order to achieve the client’s delivery date. “Safety and quality is the key to our success; our employees are highly skilled and loyal.,” Steve commented. “Everyone promotes ‘Target Zero’ which means we want zero injuries, each employee to go home as they came to work.

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We invest heavily on projects promoting a safe and healthy work place. Safety is discussed daily at the start of shift briefings and all incidents and near misses, no matter how small, are reported for prevention.”

Over 16,000 castings and patterns Progress Rail Services UK Ltd. specialises in the design and manufacture of permanent way switches and crossings and engineered products for mainline, freight, industrial and light rail customers in the UK and globally. CIS produces castings for those products, and has done for many years.

Patterns are held which date back to the early 1900s and these are used for replacement parts which are often required for switches and crossings still in use today. A skilled pattern shop maintains all the patterns and checks each one against the drawing before a casting is made. New patterns can be made as required or existing patterns can be modified to suit customer requirements, whether it is increasing the thickness of the rail bed or increasing/reducing block widths.

The company also develops prototype castings for customers, taking a drawing and manufacturing a pattern to then produce a casting for testing trials and, ultimately, approval.

Typical products include an extensive range of base plates, heel blocks, distance blocks, chairs, brackets, chogs washers, clamps, anti-creep devices and switch diamonds.

Progress Rail UK can either produce one-off castings for a single switch or produce many thousands. The process created means that there is no down time – there can be 250 pattern changes in a day with no loss of production.

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Rapid turn-around

One-off kits or emergency orders can be done in less than a week and Progress Rail works with the customer to ensure possessions are delivered to the customer or directly to sites or depots.

As Steve explained: “We can, and have, received orders in the morning, made the casting and the customer has taken the casting that afternoon, for a possession the same evening.

“There are three furnaces producing iron with a melting time of 70 minutes between melts of three tons. Nothing is cast unless it gets the metallurgist’s approval first.

“Moulding to knocking-out takes three hours, cooling takes longer but the time taken to cool is used to pull test bars and view micros. When the cast has been released to production, we can then shot blast and fettle the casting, taking off all the rough edges left by feeders and running systems. At the same time the fettler will gauge the ferrule holes and clip housings to ensure compliance. Other castings such as chairs are further checked for inclination and flange way clearance.

“After fettling and various checks, the cast is ready for the customer. All that remains is kitting and this can be one plate on a pallet or it could be a mixture of plates, blocks, nuts, bolts, washers and slipper pads.”

Progress Rail UK doesn’t just deliver a casting – it also delivers a service and knowledge that forms part of a sophisticated and complex engineered switch or crossing.