Quantification of the lateral forces in concrete sleeper fastening systems

Brent A. Williams, Donovan Holder, J. Riley Edwards, Marcus S. Dersch, Christopher P.L. Barkan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consistent increases in cumulative freight tonnages, combined with the move towards increased higher-speed intercity passenger rail operation, have placed greater demands on North American railroad infrastructure. Concrete sleepers and fastening system components are known to fail at a wide range of life cycle intervals when subjected to demanding loading environments. Such failures can cause track geometry defects, require repetitive maintenance procedures, and present critical engineering challenges. Rail seat deterioration, the degradation of the concrete material beneath the rail, has been identified through a survey of North American Class I railroads to be the most-critical engineering challenge for concrete sleepers. Shoulder/fastener wear or fatigue was identified by the same survey as the second-most-critical engineering challenge related to concrete sleepers. Lateral forces transferred through the fastening system are thought to be a primary cause of degradation of insulators. The objective of this study is to quantify the demands on the insulator through analysis of the transfer of lateral wheel loads into the fastening system by measuring the magnitude of the lateral forces entering the shoulder, a component of the fastening system adjacent to the insulator. The lateral load evaluation device (LLED) was developed at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign to quantify these forces. Data captured by the LLED will assist the rail industry in moving towards the mechanistic design of future fastening systems, by quantifying the lateral forces in the fastening system under representative loading conditions. Information gained through this study will also lead to a better understanding of the frictional forces at key interfaces in the fastening system. Preliminary results show that the transfer of lateral wheel loads into the fastening system is highly dependent on the magnitude of the lateral wheel loads and the frictional characteristics of the fastening system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1714-1721
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Lateral force
  • concrete sleeper
  • fastening system
  • friction
  • heavy axle load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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