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Mid-America Transportation Center

Strength and Resistivity Properties of Fouled Ballast

Final Report
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Researchers

  • Principal Investigator: Robert Parsons (rparsons@ku.edu (785)864-2946)
  • Project Status
    Complete
    About this Project
    Brief Project Description & Background
    Railroad companies use large amounts of crushed stone, called ballast, to support their tracks. Over time this ballast becomes contaminated, or fouled. This can lead to excessive movements of the track when loaded, which can force railroad companies to slow trains down, and could potentially cause derailments. The goal of this research is to evaluate the potential usefulness of several technologies for the rapid identification and characterization of fouled ballast by testing these technologies on track currently in service.
    Research Objective
    The goal of this research is to evaluate the potential usefulness of several technologies for the rapid identification and characterization of fouled ballast, by testing these technologies on track currently in service. We plan to test the dynamic cone penetrometer, lightweight falling deflectometer, resistivity using a Wenner spacing, and a resistance probe developed at KU.
    Potential Benefits
    The potential benefit of this research is the identification of one or more technologies that can be used by railroad personnel to quickly identify areas with fouled ballast and assess the severity of fouling. This would enable railroads to better target maintenance activities and maintain the rail in a better state of repair.
    Abstract
    Railroads require continuous supplies of crushed stone for use as ballast to maintain tracks. Over time and with repeated loading from rail traffic, ballast becomes progressively fouled, which inhibits drainage and degrades ballast strength and stability. This can lead to slow orders and maintenance actions, and potentially derailments. A need exists for one or more inexpensive and efficient means for railroad personnel to identify and characterize the type and degree of fouling so an appropriate course of action can be identified. KU has conducted research characterizing the relationships between strength, permeability, resistivity, and fouling. Distinct relationships have been observed between the type and amount of fouling and the permeability and resistivity. KU has also used a number of field instruments for a variety of geotechnical field investigations. It is proposed that a series of field tests, including dynamic cone penetrometer, lightweight deflectometer, Wenner resistivity, image/video measurement, and other methods be used to characterize fouling, followed by excavation and fouling determination. The testing will be conducted on track in service, and may also be conducted on artificial sections constructed at KU. Based on the results of the testing, recommendations will be developed for the use of field instruments for characterization of fouling.
    Project Amount
    $ $60,000