Japan's first all stainless railway carriage (1958)
Stainless railway carriage Chicago
Photo courtesy of Euro Inox
By 1932 the first stainless steel railway carriages were put into service by the Budd Company. Stainless steel soon became a standard material for rail applications in the United States and Japan, a trend that has continued to the present day. Other countries which have adopted stainless steel include: Australia, Canada, India, China, Sweden, Spain and UK (Channel Tunnel vehicle transporters).
Austenitic grades of stainless steel, notably 301LN, are particularly strong which enables manufacturers to reduce the thickness of the structure for railway carriages – making them lighter and therefore more economic to operate. It also provides excellent crash performance as stainless steel can absorb large amounts of energy in an accident.
In rail applications stainless steel is used whenever corrosion resistance, durability, crash resistance, fire safety, ease of cleaning, and visual attractiveness are key requirements.