Herbert F Moore

Image 1 Herbert Moore conducting stress tests on rails.

Professor Herbert F. Moore, born in 1875, can be called the savior of American railroads. In the early 1900’s many railroads were having problems with their tracks shattering from fissures in the steel. Over twelve thousand railed failed per year, costing a fortune in repairs, damaged goods, and human lives. For many years nobody was able to determine the cause, and the furthest progress was the development of a detector car that was able to detect a potential rail failure with the use of gyroscopes. In 1930, Moore, who was an expert in the field of metal fatigue, was approached by the Rail Manufacturer’s Technical Committee and given a grant to attempt to find the cause of the rail failures.

Moore’s first instinct was that the rails were failing due to stress from day-to-day use. Using many different techniques to stress rail samples, from a full sized locomotive running on a treadmill system, to bending and impact testing, Moore was never able to find a definitive reason as to why the rails failed. To his team’s surprise, many railed that have tested positive for fissures had not failed in the destruction tests. His research led him to believe that the fissure problem was most likely not caused by stress, but rather by chemical and metallurgical problems.
The first clue came to Moore in a paper written by I. C. Mackie hypothesizing that hydrogen was present in excess in the shattered rails. This realization launched a three year study into hydrogen and steel rails. Moore found that when steel was cooled too quickly after forging, the steel was able to absorb a massive amount of hydrogen. The hydrogen then collected around the impurities in the steel, leading to fissures that could shatter after repeated stress. Moore and his team was able to create a controlled cooling process that slowly cooled the steel so that it did not absorb too much hydrogen. Within just a few years, millions of controlled-cooled rails have been laid and still to this day, none have ever failed. Moore and his team had saved the railroads over 100 million dollars of damages and was hailed as the saviors of the railroad system.

Works Cited
Kingery, R. A., Berg, R. D., Schillinger, E. H. (1967) Men and Ideas in Engineering. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press content and Images 1 pg. 62 and 2 pg. 59