Effect of critical factors influencing longitudinal track resistance leveraging field experimentation

Dersch, M.S., M.J. Potvin, A. de O. Lima and J.R. Edwards. 2023. Effect of critical factors influencing longitudinal track resistance leveraging field experimentation. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. doi:10.1177/03611981231187641.


As extreme temperatures increase, there is an increased need to ensure that continuous welded rail (CWR) stresses are more accurately set and better maintained. Therefore, to improve the management of CWR rail stresses and to increase safety through the reduction of buckled track derailments this paper documents the results from a field experimentation program of controlled single rail breaks (SRBs). SRBs were conducted at multiple field site locations to quantify the longitudinal resistance on both timber and concrete sleeper track. Accurate longitudinal resistance values are critical, because if the wrong value is selected, the rail neutral temperature could easily be set to a low value, increasing the probability of a track buckle or rail pull-apart, further compounding the impact of extreme temperatures. The results presented quantify the effect of sleeper and fastener type as well as ballast consolidation, and compare them with relevant results from the literature. From this, it was found that well-maintained concrete sleeper track exhibited a longitudinal resistance greater than the currently recommended value. Further, well-maintained timber sleeper track with anchors on every other sleeper exhibited a longitudinal resistance 44% lower than concrete sleeper track and 30% lower than timber track with anchors installed on every sleeper. Additionally, disturbing the ballast reduced the longitudinal resistance by 15%. Finally, the results indicated that slip was primarily occurring at the rail–sleeper interface for unanchored timber sleepers and at the sleeper–ballast interface for anchored timber sleepers and concrete sleepers.