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Railroad Rail Anvil
Project Background

During my time in Boy Scouts I met many people with a multitude of hobbies and skills. One of the adult leaders in my troop taught the metalworking merit badge during the week of summer camp in 2012, I believe. He brought with him his anvil, which had been given to him by a friend, made from a cutoff of a railroad rail, cut to be more or less the shape of a generic anvil with a plasma cutter. I wish that I had images of it, but I forgot to take any pictures.

A few years down the line I did some research to find who owned railroads that had been shut down or abandoned, or if all abandoned rails were up for grabs, and found out they are most definitely not. Scrap yards specifically won’t accept them because ownership of a detached rail is difficult to prove. Most if not all rail lines are government owned and cannot be modified. I instead searched the internet for a long section of rail that I could make into my own anvil and found a 12-inch section of Union Pacific rail on eBay for 78 dollars, which I thought was quite a good deal for the weight, history, material and condition of the rail. I then modeled it in Creo Parametric, and then made cuts removing sections of metal until it resembled a conventional anvil.

I still have not made any modifications to the section that I bought because I like its original form a lot and can still use it as an anvil for my current needs. If I ever need the flat top and horn of a real anvil, I will probably buy another section, plasma cut the large chunks off and angle grind it to shape. The ringing noise that the rail produces when striking it is quite a bit more satisfying than the damped thud of a real cast iron anvil, but I know that the lack of a ring is a large part of the reason that anvils are generally made from cast iron. The damping properties of its porous structure dissipate vibration quickly and yield quieter impact noises, likely because loud noise can potentially be damaging to hearing and can be a dangerous distraction in the workplace. Aside from that, the complex shape of an anvil is easier to produce through casting than through the shaping methods usually used to form steel. On typical professional anvils an additional steel top, called the face, is installed to provide better resistance to deformation. This is an important feature because if denting does occur, that deformation is transferred to any workpiece interacting with the surface.

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