Technical Reports

Performance Evaluation of Concrete Railroad Ties on the Northeast Corridor

  • 21
  • Mar
  • 2014
AUTHOR: Ronald A. Mayville, Liying Jiang, Matthew Sherman
SUBJECT: Track, Tracks & Structures
KEYWORDS: Concrete railroad ties, alkali-silica reaction (ASR), delayed ettringite formation (DEF), impact echo, material analysis, prestressing tendons, degradation mechanisms, petrographic analyses, bursting and splitting forces, transfer strength and length
ABSTRACT: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. conducted an investigation into the factors that caused widespread failure in prestressed concrete railroad ties on the Northeast Corridor. The problem was apparent in ties manufactured and installed circa 1994–1998. The work included a literature search, review of existing studies, field investigation, laboratory analyses, including petrography and mechanical testing, finite element analysis, and field testing. We evaluated ties that cracked (pre-2003 ties) and ties that did not crack (post-2003 and San-Vel ties). The results show that the predominant mode of cracking, horizontal cracks in the top row of tendons, is a result of a combination of high stresses from prestressing forces and alkali-silica reaction (ASR) induced pressure. Train wheel loading contributes to crack growth but does not appear to be the cause of crack initiation. Delayed Ettringite Formation (DEF) and freeze-thaw cycling do not appear to contribute to the cracking.