Design & Development of PSC Sleeper and Philosophy of Design for High Speed

A. K. Singhal * Rajeev Verma **

Synopsis : The PSC sleepers were introduced on Indian Railways in the late 60s and since then have been accepted as essential component of modern track, to meet the requirement of the increasing traffic, heavier axle load and higher speed. Indian Railway is one of the largest user of concrete sleepers amongst the world Railways. More than 100 million prestress concrete sleepers equivalent to 60,000 track kilometers have been produced in Indian Railway so far. Present rate of production is about 10 million per annum. Design of Concrete sleeper differs from normal structural design in a way that the loading and support conditions cannot be assessed to a high degree of certainty. This paper summarises design requirements, design philosophy and factors influencing the design of PSC for high speed track.

1.0 Introduction The purpose of railway track is to transfer train loads to the formation. Railway track is a discrete system consisting of rail, sleeper and ballast laid over formation. Load transfer works on the principle of stress reduction, layer by layer. The maximum stress occurs between wheel and rail and reduces as the contact area increases. Sleeper is a very important component of track as load from the rail is transferred through rail pad to the ballasted bed and ultimately to the formation. Sleepers are members generally laid transverse to the rails, on which the rails are supported and fixed through fasteners. The most preferred material for sleeper has been timber since the beginning of railway constructions but due to indiscriminate deforestation and rapid dwindling of wood all over the world, a need for developing a strong alternative to wooden sleeper was realized by Railway Engineers, thus heralding the era of concrete sleepers.
* Executive Director/Track, RDSO, Lucknow ** Deputy Chief Engineer/Con/Design, Western Railway, Churchgate


normally 6 Kg/cm2. high strength concrete and prestressing wire used. Lateral and longitudinal stability of sleepers is provided by the weight. Consequently the shape of the sleeper body is tapered from both ends to the centre in height and sometimes width with gradual change of sectional profile to avoid stress concentrations.e. The end faces should preferably be of a size and shape to provide maximum resistance to lateral movement. Maintainability of track mostly depends upon the formation conditions and the formation pressure caused due to transmission of ballast pressure from the interface of sleeper bottom to formation through ballast.0 Basic design requirement The design of concrete sleepers is determined by fundamental requirements arising from the role that the sleeper component plays in the entire track structure. RDSO has carried out a simulation study with Charmers University of Sweden for factors influencing design of concrete sleeper and manufacturing. but also to take care of the lateral movement induced by the train and in the track itself due to temperature variations. As the prestressing wires (tendons) are straight. shape and length of the sleepers. - The role of the sleeper is not only to distribute the vertical load from the train. the cross section can be varied so that the geometry of a particular section may be used to provide prestress eccentricity to best match the bending moments. 2. There is also a significant contribution from compacted ballast shoulders at the sleeper ends and compacted ballast in the cribs. The dimensional requirements for monoblock sleepers are as follows: The bottom plan area of sleeper must be such that the average ballast pressure should not exceed a certain value. Recently. positive or negative. The main factor involved in lateral stability is friction between the sleeper base and the supporting ballast. 28 .Life of the sleeper normally depends upon the quality of material i.

The centre of the rail seat of sleepers is generally placed at a distance of 500 mm or less from the sleeper end. The aim is to develop full prestressing at the position of the rail seat in order to prevent bending cracks in the serviceability state. but on the support side. causing tensile stresses at the bottom of the sleeper. It is thereby obvious Fig. a wide range of support reactions are found. The vehicle (wagon/coach) applies its load to the track through axle and wheels.1% of the total design load. The points of application of load are defined. state of compaction and formation below it as well as the form of ballasting and the quality of maintenance. which could cause a fatigue failure of the tendons. the requirements of the anchorage capacity of the tendons are tough and create a complex stress situation at the ends of the sleeper. They are subjected mostly to dynamic loads. 1 : A Concrete Sleeper that a short transmission length is essential for pre-tensioned sleepers. Sleepers rest on the ballast but are not tied down to it. Consequently. First. These depend on the nature of the ballast.A sleeper without any crack is desirable because cracks in the concrete caused by tensile bending moments lead to large increase in the stress range of the prestressing steel. The most critical bending moment along the sleeper body often occurs at the rail seat. thus the impact load is able to make the sleepers oscillate. they are not subjected to self-load stresses during their working life as the static self-weight of the rail is only of the order of 0. The point of loading also defines the points of maximum moment and shear as coincidental.0 Design philosophy Railway sleepers are probably unique in the way in which they act as structures. The design and the degree of prestressing are thus most focused on the conditions at the rail seat. as shown in figure due to other considerations. Axle load depends on the design of the vehicle and its 29 . 3.

4. rail wheel irregularity and track defects etc. assessment of load on the sleeper. Finally.e. Rail seat load depends upon number of factors such as wheel load shared by sleepers adjacent to the particular wheel. selection of dimensions of sleeper followed by bending moment calculations at rail seat & centre of sleeper and finally checking the stresses in sleeper and calculating factor of safety and load factor. The maximum load on a particular sleeper is derived by load distribution factor multiplied by wheel load.55 for PSC sleeper (sleeper spacing 60 cm) design has been adopted by Indian Railways. sleeper spacing. Dynamics of the rail wheel interaction is very complex phenomenon. much design development relies on a probabilistic approach taking into account what has gone before. a sleeper is designed with given material strengths. 4. ballast packing.1. dynamic loading due to wheel.1 The wheel load coming on a rail is shared by many sleepers. therefore. ballast pressure distribution. Due to moving load.2 Dynamic augment is a factor which is multiplied to static load to calculate the design load. 4. properties/condition of rubber pad and maintenance practices of the track. quantified and maintained in the long term in practice.1.1 Loading It has been an internationally accepted fact that the combination of a number of elastic media between wheel and formation coupled with the dynamics of track and rolling stock irregularities introduce many indeterminates that preclude determination of exact rail seat design load.0 Design There are a number of steps in the design i. 4. Many factors are difficult to be determined. maintenance condition of the track and the bottom profile of sleeper.maintenance. 30 . The first step towards an economical design is therefore to find out the rail seat design load correctly to the possible extent. Ascertaining the load coming on an individual sleeper and consequent ballast pressure involves the consideration of track stiffness. Load distribution factor of 0. The load coming on the sleeper must also account for dynamic augment due to speed. The design sleeper moments are assessed from the sleeper loads and ballast pressure.50-0.

1.1. This is in near ideal track condition. a length of 1040mm from sleeper end is being considered as a zone of ballast reaction on IR. Presently. 2 : Different Support Conditions for Sleepers 4. This study shows that properties/quality of rubber pad do have effect on dynamic loading condition of sleeper. These varying frequencies vibrations are to be absorbed by different component of the bogie and track. by its length and track gauge. Fig. 4. the BMs at the two sections are influenced by bottom width at various sections.5 mm thickness vis-à-vis harder EVA pads on loading has also been studied.3 The effect of softer pads of 5 mm/6.2.1 The bending moments (BMs) at rail seat and centre are functions of the bottom profile (plan) of the sleeper. Relief in BM at rail 31 . Considering all the factors.2 BM at rail seat is influenced by the overhang of the sleeper and hence. For a given length of sleeper.4 Ballast pressure plays an important role in the design of concrete sleeper. 4.2 Bending Moments 4. 4. dynamic augment for speed and rail wheel irregularities has been adopted as 2. which is considered as 40% of that imparted by end zones. Concrete sleeper are susceptible to impact load especially in the frequency ranging from 25-300 Hz.vibrations of very low frequencies of the order of 1 Hz to high frequencies of the order of 2000 Hz are generated. With passage of time.2. track deteriorates and central portion of the sleeper also imparts partial reaction.5 by Indian Railways. is offered by the uniformly distributed rail seat load up to the longitudinal neutral axis of sleeper. However.3 BM at centre section is controlled by the distance between rail seats (gauge). Centre of gravity of the set of HTS wire will depend upon two moments i. dictate the choice to top width at rail 32 . at rail seat & at centre and. The area in the tamping zone should be large enough to restrict ballast pressure at the sleeper ballast interface to 5-6 kg/cm 2. therefore. Very large widths causes problem of tamping and may result in broken edges.2.5 Longer length of sleeper reduces formation pressure but increases BM at rail seat with more demand of steel though centre section BM is reduced.e. Even with a coefficient of centre binding of 0.2. the length of the sleeper is to be decided based on the aim to establish full prestressing at the position of the rail seat in order to prevent bending cracks in the serviceability state. inserts. bearing plates/rubber pads etc. The width at centre section should be as small as possible but the transition from rail seat to centre should be gradual to avoid stress concentration. uneven ballast pressure and torsional stresses.2. the magnitude of hogging BM at centre remains comparatively smaller for the standard gauge sleepers than for BG.1 Bottom width Larger width at the rail seat reduces ballast pressure.5. 4.2 Top width Nature of fittings like dowels.3 Section of Sleeper 4. the width being constrained by considerations of sleeper spacing and mechanised tamping.4 The Indian Railway sleeper suffers in comparison to its European/ American/Australian counterpart in the matter of increased centre-moments/centre top tension because of the 17% wider track gauge. In addition the margin of transmission length reduces in case of fully bonded pre-tensioned designs. it is very important to decide CG of set of HTS wire accordingly. Reduction in length has a reverse effect on the BMs at the two critical sections. 4. 4.3. slide chairs. 4. coefficient of centre binding and the width at centre bottom and increases with all the three parameters.3.

algebraic sum of bending stress and stress due to prestress) at critical sections i.04 Fc (where Fc is the specified concrete strength) are the present permissible limits in bending compression and tension respectively. 4. being the smallest. The depth at centre section has to be decided considering that the section has adequate modulus to restrict bending tensile stresses at top which can be effectively brought within the permissible compressive and tensile stresses in concrete by the superimposed prestressing forces. at rail seat and centre must remain well within its permissible limits. 4. On the other hand smaller depth result in reduced section modulus and very high bending tensile stress that cannot be overcome by prestressing forces. 0.4.3.e. according to the available information in different designs of the world from 70% to 75% of UTS.4. higher section modulus at rail seat bottom and hence larger factor of safety against the imposed BM and larger load factor against failure. 4. But it is not the initial prestress that really matters. 33 .2% proof stress for HTS wires has a generally stipulated value of not less than 85% of UTS.4 Fc and 0. should be adequate to accommodate HTS wire in top tier and should have adequate cover for durability.e.2 HTS Wires 0. The transition from rail seat section to centre section should be gradual to avoid stress concentration and cracking under impact of moving loads.3 Depth Increased depth means greater relief in bending stresses at rail seat. already weakened due to a much smaller number of HTS wires having to be placed in the reduced sectional area.4 Permissible stresses 4. It is the residual prestress after losses that influence not only the crack resisting capacity of the section but also its durability under pulsating The initial prestressing force varies.1 Concrete Final stresses in concrete (i. Top width at centre section.

4. A high factor of safety ensures greater immunity from cracks except under very high loads with a very low probability of incidence. In general.3 Loss of Prestress of HTS Wire Losses in prestress occur due to relaxation of steel.5 Factor of safety (FOS) & load factor (LF) 4. shrinkage and elastic shortening of concrete. the better the compressive strength of concrete. A load factor of about 3 is considered adequate. Low relaxation steel will help in reducing losses.Very high permanent prestressing force is likely to cause longitudinal splitting of concrete also.5. The FOS indicates that crack may occur under working load of the order of rail seat design load x FOS. Practices in assumption of losses in prestress depend on production techniques. 4.5. creep. concrete strength and effective depth of section. A crack free section imparts longevity because it precludes ingress of moisture or chemicals that cause stress corrosion in HTS.4. With a smaller factor of safety the margin between the permissible tensile stress in concrete and its modulus of rupture reduces and cracks may appear at lower and more frequent loads.1 The designed MR at rail seat bottom is equal to BM x FOS. Load factor indicates the capacity of the section to resist failure under rarely occurring very high impact loads as in case of derailment. Presently normal relaxation steel is being used. the lower the losses. concrete manufacturing and curing is essential to attain consistent high strength leading to lower losses. 5.0 5.2 Load factor is the ratio of failure moment (MF) capacity and imposed BM. Assumption of losses is one thing but to ensure that no more losses take place than assumed is a measure of technology and quality control in the plant. MF is a function of the quantity of HTS in tensile zone. - 4. RDSO has done a project in consultation with Chalmers University of Sweden on 'Optimisation of Prestressed Concrete Sleeper' under UIC Asia Regional 34 .1 Recent Simulation Study Recently. A high level of quality control on materials.

1 The value of load distribution factor is different for different track conditions such as rail corrugation.4.55 in RDSO design. In the modeling study. the DIFF model has been analysed to assess influence on Dynamic Augment factor due to rail wheel irregularity. wheel flats. rail pad stiffness. load distribution factor and dynamic augmentation factor depend on track irregularities. Rail has been modeled with 16 beams element in each sleeper bay.2 DIFF Model has been developed by CHARMEC using FEM analysis for a length of 70 sleepers' bays. rail pad stiffness etc. rail pad stiffness etc. Four wheel loads (2 from each adjoining bogies) have been considered in the model. In the project. ratio between rail seat load to wheel load) is 0.e. ballast bed stiffness and wheel flat etc. As per study.2 The value of dynamic magnification is different for different track conditions such as rail corrugation.0. Uniform ballast bed stiffness distribution has been taken with value of ballast bed stiffness equal to 225 MN/m/m2 and ballast bed viscous damping factor of 1. stiffness of rubber pad. wheel flats. ballast pressure distribution etc. following important conclusions have been drawn - 5. 5. Only half sleeper / track model is developed owing to symmetry of track structure. rail joint. various design parameters of the sleeper have been studied by computer simulation and recommendations have been made for improvement in design philosophy. wheel flat. rail joint.Cooperation Programme.4. Thus. and Dynamic augmentation factor is largely affected by speed.4 5.43 under static condition which is presently being taken as 0. 35 . wheel flat and rubber pad stiffness.24 for LHB coach for the case of wheel flat. Maximum dynamic magnification factor for rail seat bending moment is 1. Based on studies.3 5.73 for BOXNHL and 2. 5. Load distribution factor (i.40-0. rail type. detailed analysis and design of sleeper through simulation studies becomes very important for heavy haul and high speed traffic.

Fig.5.6 kN Hard rail pad (stiffness 400 kN/mm) = 1. rail joint. 36 . see Section 3.55 x 2. rail seat load = 0. b) Rail pads with higher stiffness lead to a significant increase in the maximum contact forces. ballast stiffness distribution. and 60mm wheel flat (depth 0.3 Influence of Dynamic rail pad stiffness and vehicle speed on sleeper Bending Moments a) There is moderate increase in rail seat & centre bending moment and rail seat load due to increase in rail pad stiffness. Maximum rail seat load for axle load of 22. it can be concluded that load distribution factor and dynamic augment factor are not constant but vary with the track conditions viz.1 x 229/2 = 126 kN Whereas. Reference track model and reference freight vehicle model BOXNHL.9 T with wheel flat & with Soft rail pad (stiffness 100 kN/mm) = 0. rail pad stiffness and speed etc. rail corrugation. wheel flat.4. 3 : Influence of dynamic rail pad stiffness and vehicle speed on (left) maximum sleeper bending moment at rail seat and (right) minimum sleeper bending moment at centre.8 x 229/2 = 91.7 kN Medium rail pad (stiffness 200 kN/mm) = 0. as per RDSO existing practice. rail seat loads and sleeper bending moments.5 x 229/2 = 157 kN Thus. 40 mm) c) d) As per studies.6 x 229/2 = 68.

maximum sleeper b) 37 .4. Uniform cross section leads to reduced rail seat bending moment. During dynamic loading. 5. Sleeper response for dynamic loading is different from static loading.4. Fig.4 Increased ballast bed stiffness leads to increased rail seat load and rail seat bending moment but decreased centre bending moment. 4 : Different load distributions 5. as shown below: By considering the above distributions in analysis.4.4.6 Rail seat bending moment is maximum for the distribution corresponding to ballast shoulder at ends and centre bending moment is maximum for distribution ballast shoulder at centre.7 Influence of ballast bed modulus distribution and vehicle speed a) Effect of geometrical properties of sleeper on bending moments has been studied. Sleeper with narrow crosssection at centre leads to reduced sleeper centre bending moment.5. 5.5 Different types of ballast stiffness distribution (based on distribution factor α ) have been considered depending upon packing condition. it can be said that all possible conditions occurring in actual field conditions have been covered in design.

the characteristic bending moment is representing the required capacity at the end of the service life of the sleeper.e.4 times the characteristic bending moment depending on the geometry of the sleeper and the prestress level. and 60mm wheel flat (depth 0. i. As per European standards. The fundamental idea is that the sleeper should have a capacity that is higher than the characteristic bending moment requirements during its entire service life. 5 : Influence of ballast bed modulus distribution and vehicle speed on (left) maximum sleeper bending moment at rail seat and (right) minimum sleeper bending moment at centre. 40 mm) c) displacement and maximum sleeper curvature / bending moment are not synchronized. see Section 3. Reference track model and reference freight vehicle model BOXNHL.Fig. The bending capacity of the sleeper is believed to vary during the service life due to prestress losses and changes in the tensile capacity of the concrete. The test bending moment is normally 1.1. 50 years.25 . The test bending moment is calculated by adding the bending moment capacity reduction given by the expected loss of prestress and reduction of tensile capacity of the concrete from the time of testing to the end of the service life of the sleeper. 38 .

a) Prestressing There should be Parallel control of both the elongation and the applied hydraulic pressure. Cutting of sleepers The cutting of the sleepers should be performed by mean of a diamond disc cutter that simultaneously goes through both the concrete and the wires. d) e) 39 . An indented strand surface should be used in order to ensure the bond capacity of the strands. There should be long beds in order to avoid large influence of wire length and to provide means for an effective quality control. Anchorage of prestress Both single wire strands and three-wire strands can be used. The moulds should be covered by tarpaulins directly after casting in order to utilise the heat created by the hydration process.5. Compacting the concrete only by vibration of the entire mould should be avoided in order to ensure that the geometry of the moulds remains maintained and that the compaction of the concrete does not vary due to vibration nodes of the mould.5 Study for Manufacturing Process As per study. Simultaneous prestressing of all wires in the bed is desirable. b) Casting The majority of the compaction of the concrete should be accomplished by use of internal poker vibrators in order to ensure proper compaction of the concrete along the entire length of each sleeper in the bed. The maximum allowed temperature in the concrete during the curing should be limited to 60 °C. No corrosion protection should be applied at the sleeper ends in order to enable future inspection of possible wire slippage at the ends of the sleeper. c) Curing The Cement fineness (blaine) of at least 440 m²/kg should be used. following improvements in sleeper production process can be carried out for an effective sleeper production system that produces high quality sleepers suitable for high speed.

Issues involved High Speed is a relative term. This will mean heavy investment in construction of new dedicated tracks for high speed trains.7 and 1. dynamic augmentation factor depend on track irregularities. development and acquisition of high speed rolling stock and development & installation of Signalling and OHE. The dynamic coefficient partially consists of a dynamic factor due to wheel defects. this dynamic factor is taken as 150% for speed below 200 kmph and 175% for speed above 200 kmph. Load distribution factor. 6. urbanisation and unprecedented growth in intercity travel. AREMA code specifies an impact factor of 200% and a separate speed factor between 0. As per AREMA. wheel flat. detailed analysis and design of sleeper through simulation studies becomes very important for heavy haul and high speed traffic. ballast pressure distribution etc. There is no defined speed at which a train can be called a high speed train. stiffness of rubber pad.Speed factor T . and dynamic augmentation factors is largely affected by speed. Indian Railways have decided to conduct pre-feasibility studies for running high speed trains at 300-350 kms per hour in all the four regions of the country. AS1085. Rail seat characteristic bending moment Mdr = B x V x T B . High speed trains hope to capitalise on rapid growth of Indian economy. We can say anything at or over 100mph (160 kmph) is fast and should be thought of as high speed. Viewing the advantage that high speed train offers over road and air travel in intercity journeys. Typically. Thus. rising industrialisation. wheel flat and rubber pad stiffness. particularly between metros.0 High speed .2 providing a dynamic factor from 140% to 240% respectively.14 specifies 150% for a vehicle speed of 80 kmph and 200% for a vehicle speed of 115 kmph.unfactorised bending moment V .Tonnage factor 40 .f) Cleaning and oiling A controlled cleaning and oiling of the moulds must be done in order to obtain good surfaces of the sleeper and avoiding build up of concrete in parts of the mould that will lead to the need of a higher demoulding force.

7.Million Gross Tons (MGT) Speed (Kmph) Fig. z 41 . Imposed bending moment largely depends upon base area & length of sleeper and resisting moment is a property of section at different locations. correct assessment of design loading is not possible and analysis of the dynamic behavior of sleeper is still a matter of research. speed factor for design of sleeper on soft pad & hard pad are 1. profile of the sleeper plays a major role in the strength of sleeper against cracking and failure.Tonnage per annum . Due to variations in track and rolling stocks.5 T axle load & speed 200 kmph) & TGV (18 T axle load & speed 300 kmph). Indian Railways have specified design criteria considering the certain degree of uncertainty. 1.75 for high speed standard ( 22. Revision of design criteria is an ongoing process and Indian Railways is continuously engaged in rationalising the various design parameters through research as well as experience gained.50 for 25T axle load (upto speed 120 kmph). 6 : Function of the tonnage and the speed factors As per UIC.0 Conclusion z The design of concrete sleeper differs from normal structural design as loading and support condition cannot be assessed to a high degree of certainty. Therefore. PSC Sleeper is designed for NO crack condition as crack reduces the fatigue life of sleeper apart from decrease in load carrying capacity.39 & 1. z On the basis of past experience.59 & 1.

Improvement in manufacturing process of concrete sleeper is imperative to achieve high quality in sleeper production suitable for high speed as elaborated in para 5. ballast pressure distribution etc. stiffness of rubber pad.z Recent study shows.5. The simulation study and determination of these factors is must for design of sleeper for high speed. joint less track. Rail wheel irregularity to the minimum possible extent. good quality of welds and track maintenance of high standard are essential prerequisite for sleeper for high speed track. wheel flat. load distribution factor. dynamic augmentation factor depend on track irregularities. z ***** 42 .