Methods for quantifying rail seat loads and a review of previous experimentation

Van Dyk, B.J., A.J. Scheppe, J.R. Edwards, M.S. Dersch and C.P.L. Barkan. 2016. Methods for quantifying rail seat loads and a review of previous experimentation. Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit. 230 (3): 935-945. doi:10.1177/0954409715569862.


A railroad sleeper and fastening system is composed of many unique parts that, when assembled, attempt to distribute train wheel loads through the system without damaging the components while providing a safe running surface and track geometry for trains to operate on. In order to evaluate the health of the sleeper and fastening system, there are many areas that need to be examined to ensure that key limit states are not exceeded. One key area of concern is the sleeper rail seat, specifically the load magnitude applied to this surface. There are many different metrics to evaluate the rail seat load, and this report will compare these to determine which should be used given different operating and infrastructure conditions. A sample calculation for each methodology was completed in order to compare how the methods differ, and to more fully understand the strengths and limitations of each methodology. These calculations were completed both with a static load and dynamic load, as the individual approaches account for dynamic loads in a variety of ways. For the purpose of this report, these calculations were completed assuming a concrete sleeper infrastructure. The goal of this paper is to provide an evaluation of the existing rail seat load calculation methodologies to improve current concrete sleeper and fastening system design standards through the application of mechanistic design principles.