Track modulus assessment of engineered interspersed concrete sleepers in ballasted track

Arthur de Oliveira Lima, Marcus S. Dersch, Jaeik Lee, J. Riley Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ballasted railway track is typically constructed using sleepers that are manufactured from a common material type within a given length of track. Timber and concrete are the two most common sleeper materials used internationally. Evidence from historical installations of interspersed concrete sleepers in timber sleeper track in North America has indicated inadequate performance, due largely to the heterogeneity in stiffnesses among sleepers. Theoretical calculations reveal that interspersed installation, assuming rigid concrete sleepers and supports, can result in rail seat forces more than five times as large as the force supported by the adjacent timber sleepers. Recently, engineered interspersed concrete (EIC) sleepers were developed using an optimized design and additional layers of resiliency to replace timber sleepers that have reached the end of their service lives while maintaining sleeper-to-sleeper stiffness homogeneity. To confirm that the concrete sleepers can successfully replicate the stiffness properties of the timber sleepers installed in track, field instrumentation was installed under revenue-service train operations on a North American commuter rail transit agency to measure the wheel-rail vertical loads and track displacement. The results indicated that there are minimal differences in median track displacements between timber (2.26 mm, 0.089 in.) and EIC sleepers (2.21 mm, 0.087 in). Using wheel-load data and the corresponding track displacements associated with each wheel load, track modulus values were calculated using the single-point load method based on beam on elastic foundation (BOEF) fundamentals. The calculated values for the track modulus indicated similar performances between the two sleeper types, with median values of 12.95 N/mm/mm (1878 lbs./in./in.) and 12.79 N/mm/mm (1855 lbs./in./in.) for timber sleepers and EIC sleepers, respectively. The field results confirmed the suitability of the new EIC sleeper design in maintaining a consistent track modulus for the location studied, thus evenly sharing loads between and among sleepers manufactured from both concrete and timber.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number261
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Ballasted track
  • Concrete sleeper
  • Field measurement
  • Interspersed concrete sleeper
  • Timber sleeper
  • Track modulus
  • Wheel-rail vertical load

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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