Sampling, reconstituting, and gradation testing of railroad ballast

Timothy D. Stark, Stephen T. Wilk, Robert H. Swan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Ballast characterization is important for predicting ballast performance and serviceability in track. This paper investigates ballast sampling methods and sizes, reconstitution, splitting, and gradation testing for appropriate characterization of in-track ballast. This paper will review various ASTM test methods and determine how these procedures should be applied to railroad ballast sampling and testing. For example, ASTM D75/75M, Standard Practice for Sampling Aggregates, and ASTM C136/136M, Standard Test Method for Sieve Analysis of Fine and Coarse Aggregates, require sampling ballast with a maximum particle diameter of 75 mm (3 in.) and about 16 to 17 three-quarters full 5-gal buckets to meet the requirements. These methods are important because of the difficulty of obtaining representative in-field ballast samples. Undisturbed ballast samples are not feasible because of the nature of unbonded granular particles, so sampling emphasis must be placed on best methods to collect and reconstitute field ballast conditions in the laboratory. Another aspect that will be discussed is how to deal with local variations in ballast fouling and degradation that can result in significant differences in ballast characteristics. For example, the ballast underneath the tie (i.e., the ballast of interest) will likely be more degraded and fouled than shoulder or crib ballast, but this is also the most difficult location to obtain without track disturbance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationRailroad Ballast Testing and Properties
EditorsRichard Szecsy, Timothy D. Stark, Robert H. Swan
PublisherASTM International
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9780803176553
StatePublished - 2018
EventInternational Symposium on Railroad Ballast Testing and Properties 2018 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jan 24 2018Jan 24 2018

Publication series

NameASTM Special Technical Publication
VolumeSTP 1605
ISSN (Print)0066-0558


OtherInternational Symposium on Railroad Ballast Testing and Properties 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans


  • Ballast
  • Ballast sampling
  • Rockfill
  • Sieve analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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