Why silicone is most effective material for the rail industry

Rail engineering is constantly evolving. Currently under construction, the new HS2 railway has already been called “the most sustainable high-speed railway in the world”, thanks in part to its implementation of low carbon concrete.

In other rail news, the newly dubbed “Internet of Trains” blends engineering with technology – in seat sensors and real-time schedule updates, for example. These developments are exciting, but when we strip the industry back to basics, which material is being increasingly used as technology advances?

The answer, of course, is silicone.

Where do you find silicone rubber in rail engineering?

In rail engineering, you can find silicone in both interior and exterior applications:

  • Wall and ceiling insulation
  • HVAC seals and gaskets
  • Exterior light seals
  • Vibration dampening
  • LED display seals
  • Interior door seals
  • Seat cushioning
  • Electrical enclosure gaskets

What are the benefits of silicone?

There are a vast range of benefits for using silicone in rail engineering, which depend on the product you opt for. Here are just some of the advantages gained when using silicone for rail projects:

  • Flame retardant
  • Low smoke toxicity
  • Extreme temperature resistance (-60°C to 270°C)
  • High tear strength
  • Improved abrasion resistance
  • Excellent durability and lifespan

What makes silicone effective for railway engineering?

The benefits of using silicone in railway engineering are boundless.

Firstly, silicone rubber has exceptional resistance to environmental conditions such as Ozone, UV, rain, sleet, snow and frost. This makes it a perfect sealing component for exterior applications which are regularly exposed to the elements.

Another imperative feature of silicone in the rail sector is its flame retardancy and low smoke toxicity. Fire safety is paramount in today’s rail car designs and silicone is one of the best elastomers to protect critical applications in the event of a fire. Low compression set is another feature that makes silicone popular with engineers, silicone sponge in particular. This means that even after being under compression for an extended period of time, the silicone will recover and maintain its original shape. This is vital for seal or gasket applications in rail cars; with carriage doors opening and shutting throughout the day, it’s important to prevent deformation. Silicone does just that.

When designing any project, let alone one with a high level of public exposure, safety must be a key priority in manufacture.  With silicone, all products are tested to high and rigorous international standards and specifications. At Silicone Engineering, we formulate, test and manufacture all our silicone materials at our 55,000 sq ft facility in Blackburn, Lancashire, so you can feel reassured that we have full trace of the production process.

Are there different grades of silicone for use in rail?

Rail grades often focus on flame and smoke safety and performance, which is why Silicone Engineering developed the V-0 range of silicone rubber and sponge. The V-0 range holds international fire and smoke safety accreditations such as:

  • EN45545-2
  • NFPA 130
  • Bombardier SMP 800c
  • UL94V0

The V-0 range provides all the benefits of silicone rubber whilst improving the overall safety of the railcar in the event of a fire.  The V-0 range is produced in a number of forms, including silicone sheeting and rubber sheet rolls, silicone sponge sheeting (closed cell), and silicone extrusions including cords, tubes, profiles and sections.

Which kind of silicone do I need?

As we have established, silicone can come in all different shapes, sizes and specifications, and this makes each project highly tailorable to suit your needs.

It entirely depends on what element of rail you are engineering for, from seals and gaskets to vibration dampening and electronic enclosures. As a rule of thumb, here are examples of how each type of silicone can be used, featuring kSil® V-0 and expanSil™V-0, silicone rubber sheets and rolls.

kSil® V-0 expanSil™V-0
Closed Cell Sheeting & Rolls Closed Cell Extrusions (Profiles, Cords, Sections & Tubing)
Door Seals Door Seals
Electronic Enclosure Seals Electrical Enclosure Seals
Insulation LCD Display Screens
HVAC Seals & Gaskets Exterior Lighting Gaskets
Vibration Dampening HVAC Seals
Sound Block Outdoor Digital Signage
LED Lighting Gaskets
Gap Fillers


In conclusion, silicone rubber is an integral element to the rail industry and will be evolving alongside it for decades to come. Silicone innovation is ongoing; in fact, the New York City Subway has recently been upgraded with the use of kSil®V-0 silicone sponge in HVAC units to provide sealing and protection to the internal components.

If you’d like to find out more about how silicone can help your project, or get further details on our kSil® and expanSil™ ranges of silicone sponge, you can contact our UK, European and North American offices for more information.

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