Fish plates

Fish plate joint on double sleeper
Fish plate joint on double sleeper
© Fabian Hansmann

The rails are joined by fish plates at the rail ends or at a later state by welds. They are intended to carry over the forces on the rails from one end of the rail to the next one. The fish plates must connect the rails so that the rail running edge and rail running surface exactly match in height and direction and cannot be tilted.

A rail joint which is located directly on top of a sleeper is called a fixed joint. However, should the joint lie between two sleepers this is called a floating joint. If two adjacent sleepers are connected at the rail joint (so-called joint sleeper or double sleeper), it is a broad sleeper joint (which is no longer installed today). 

Depending on the cross-section of the individual fish plates, a distinction is made between flat, angle and double angled fish plates. In general, all fish plates have four holes for the securing of bolts in the threaded connection. But there are also so-called long fish plates (length 900 mm) they have 6 holes for the bolts.

Compromise fish plates:

Used with different rail heights or when there is wear on the rail head.

by Thorsten Schaeffer
Standard fish plates
© Thorsten Schaeffer

Standard fish plates:

Use with same rail height (e.g. new rails).

by Thorsten Schaeffer
Fish plate
© Thorsten Schaeffer

Belly fish plates

Used for broken rails and on welds.

by Thorsten Schaeffer
Belly fish plate
© Thorsten Schaeffer

by Thorsten Schaeffer
Belly fish plate
© Thorsten Schaeffer

by Thorsten Schaeffer
Belly fish plate
© Thorsten Schaeffer

Emergency fish plating

If rails are to be connected to each other, a solid and secure end of these rail joints is required. With two flat fish plates, the rails are joined in the correct position. These flat fish plates are in turn held by so-called emergency fish plates.

Emergency fish plate in use
Emergency fish plate in use
© Robel Bahnbaumaschinen GmbH

You can find suitable specialist literature to the topic here:

The Basic Principles of Mechanised Track Maintenance

The Basic Principles of Mechanised Track Maintenance

This book is dedicated to the many people involved in the day to day planning and performance of track maintenance activities. Providing a practical approach to everyday challenges in mechanised track maintenance, it is not just intended as a theoretical approach to the track system. 
Railways aim at transporting people and freight safely, rapidly, regularly, comfortably and on time from one place to another. This book is directed to track infrastructure departments contributing to the above objective by ensuring the track infrastructure’s reliability, availability, maintainability and safety – denoted by the acronym RAMS. Regular, effective and affordable track maintenance enable RAMS to be achieved.

Best Practice in Track Maintenance, Vol 1 - Infrastructure Management

Infrastructure Management Volume 1 looks at aspects of infrastructure management with particular reference to the single European railway area. Based on best-practice examples from Central Europe, measures for the targeted retrofitting and improvement of the infrastructure maintenance of the existing network are presented. In many cases, infrastructure operators are faced with a generational change, which accelerates the process. Modern information and communication technology can simplify the comprehension and presentation of complex contexts. Modified approaches to asset management and life-cycle management enable implementation of the "transparent permanent way" or the "railway 4.0".