On the ballast-sleeper interaction in the longitudinal and lateral directions

Antonio De Iorio, Marzio Grasso, Francesco Penta, Giovanni Pio Pucillo, Stefano Rossi, Mario Testa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
95 Downloads (Pure)


In service, railway tracks must withstand the transverse and longitudinal forces that are caused by running vehicles and thermal loads. The mechanical design that adopts any of the track models available in the technical literature requires that the strength of the track is fully characterised. In this paper, the results of an experimental research activity on the sleeper-ballast resistance along the lateral and the longitudinal directions are reported and discussed. In particular, the work is aimed at identifying the strength contributions offered by the base, the ballast between the sleepers, and the ballast shoulder to the global resistance of the track in the horizontal plane. These quantities were experimentally determined by means of an ad hoc system designed by the authors. Field tests were carried out on a series of track sections that were built to simulate scenarios in which the ballast was removed from the crib and/or the shoulder. The results of this study indicate that the strength percent contributions from the crib, the sleeper base, and the shoulder are, respectively, equal to about 50%, 25%, and 25% in the lateral direction, and 60%, 30%, and 10% in the longitudinal direction. Moreover, the comparison of the acquired data with literature results reveals that a detailed knowledge about the testing conditions and the activated ballast failure mechanisms is needed in order to correctly use the test data for the design purpose.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-631
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number2
Early online date18 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Ballast resistance
  • Cwr track
  • Full-scale test
  • Railway track
  • Superstructure
  • Track buckling


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