Variability of support conditions and effects on the non-linear flexural response of concrete sleepers

Ricardo J. Quirós-Orozco, J. Riley Edwards, Marcus S. Dersch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current structural models used for the flexural design of prestressed concrete sleepers assume that ballast bearing support is static and located within a fixed region. This assumption implies a linear relationship between wheel load and bending moment. However, field data gathered from instrumented sleepers shows that this trend is non-linear, and the difference in flexural behavior between model predictions and field-measured demand is significant. Using back-calculation techniques and the development of a sleeper support analysis tool, this paper investigates the load-dependency of sleeper support condition. It is hypothesized that a given support condition redistributes ballast reaction forces due to the mechanical interaction of ballast particles with the sleeper’s deflected shape. It was found that redistribution of support conditions can reduce the expected flexural bending moment up to 45% when compared with moments calculated using traditional design guidelines. This effect (non-linearity) is greater as wheel loads increase. Results from revenue service field experimentation provided insight into the interaction between sleeper and ballast and serve as a foundation for the development of more complex analytical models. This will facilitate revisions to the future flexural design procedures for concrete sleepers, to ensure they are optimized for their expected service loading conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)950-959
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Railway track
  • crosstie flexibility
  • crossties
  • field experimentation
  • track stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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