SPENO Rail Grinder in action in Katoomba

Although I've long since retired my Tonka Toys, I still love the sight of big machines in action. We were in the Blue Mountains this weekend and stopped in Katoomba for dinner. As we got out of the car, I noticed an interesting looking machine throwing impressive sparks off the nearby train tracks. I initially thought it was a derailed train car being dragged down the track, but on closer inspection realised that it was a SPENO Rail Grinder in action. When it came back for its second pass a few minutes later, I was ready with my camera and had already gotten along this fence to get a better look. Above is my YouTube video of the SPENO in action.


  1. I have seen rail grinders in operation in the US, they look approximately the same. Seemingly paradoxically, periodic grinding of the rail makes it last longer. The action of train brakes creates great localized heating in the rail head which disrupts the temper of the rail and causes spots of great hardness in the rail head. Over time, that causes uneven wear of the rail and once the rail becomes uneven it will deteriorate rapidly because trains will "pound" over the unevenness, compounding it. The grinder takes off the surface hardening and makes the rail smooth. Another fun rail-related machine to watch is the electric resistance rail welder - which welds together sections of rail by applying a (very large) current through them. This is now the preferred method for installing continuously welded rail - they used to use thermite but it causes more contamination of the weld.

  2. I worked as onsite contract supervisor on a Speno rail grinder for 5 years back in AN days.
    The main purpose is to control rail/wheel contact to reduce flanging therefore reduce fuel consuption and rail wear. Other advantages reduced noise mainly on curves, remove metal flow and reduce small irregularities on the rail/wheel contact area.