Timber Crosstie Spike Fastener Failure Investigation: Field Evaluation of an Alternative Fastener


The Federal Railroad Administration has sponsored the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s (Illinois) to conduct a comprehensive investigation into timber crosstie spike fastener failures on North American railroads. As a part of this project, researchers conducted a field evaluation of fastening systems and an accompanied modelling effort between September 2019 and June 2020. The field evaluation subjected control and alternative fastening systems to 170 million gross tons (MGT) of Heavy Axle Load (HAL) freight traffic at the Transportation Technology Center (TTC). The alternative system exhibited no component failures while the control system suffered multiple broken spikes. The results from this evaluation were compared with data from a finite element analysis (FEA) providing insight into the key fastener characteristic (i.e., tie-plate to crosstie clamping force) that likely lead to reduced spike stress and improved performance with the alternative fastening system.