Behaviour of timber-alternative railway sleeper materials under five-point bending

Salih, Choman ORCID: and Manalo, Allan ORCID: and Ferdous, Wahid ORCID: and Yu, Peng and Heyer, Tom and Schubel, Peter ORCID: (2022) Behaviour of timber-alternative railway sleeper materials under five-point bending. Construction and Building Materials, 316:125882. pp. 1-12. ISSN 0950-0618


Timber alternative composite sleepers available in the market have very distinct material properties. These differences affect the track performance when used interspersed with timber sleepers in a railway track. This research employs a newly developed five-point bending test to evaluate the failure behaviour and overall structural performance of timber, low-profile prestressed concrete, synthetic composite and engineered plastic sleepers. The Digital Image Correlation technique was used to capture the full-field profile deformation and was validated with strain data at centre and rail seat locations. The results showed that sleepers with bending modulus higher than timber will exhibit a U-shaped or nearly flat bending profile while those with lower modulus will have a pronounced W-shaped bending profile. This effect is more profound on the centre part than the rail seats. Alternative sleepers also have significantly lower rail seat flexural failure load than timber, i.e. low-profile prestressed sleepers (85%), synthetic composites (56%) and lastly, engineered plastic sleepers (42%). Moreover, each sleeper materials exhibited distinct failure mechanisms, i.e., rail seat flexural crack for timber, longitudinal shear cracks along the length for synthetic, permanent deformation at both the rail seat and centre for engineered plastic, and a combination of shear and flexural cracks for the low-profile concrete sleeper. Foam-based composite sleepers also suffers permanent indentation under the rail seat due to high pressure in these areas. The observations and the findings from this research will enrich the understanding of the behaviour of timber alternative composite sleepers, providing useful guidance to railway track engineers, asset owners and sleeper manufacturers.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current – Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Engineering (1 Jan 2022 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Advanced Engineering and Space Sciences - Centre for Future Materials (1 Jan 2017 -)
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2022 03:15
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2022 05:33
Uncontrolled Keywords: Composite sleeper; Deflection of sleepers; Failure of sleepers; Five-point bending; Timber-alternative sleeper
Fields of Research (2008): 09 Engineering > 0905 Civil Engineering > 090503 Construction Materials
09 Engineering > 0905 Civil Engineering > 090506 Structural Engineering
09 Engineering > 0912 Materials Engineering > 091209 Polymers and Plastics
Fields of Research (2020): 40 ENGINEERING > 4005 Civil engineering > 400510 Structural engineering
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): B Economic Development > 87 Construction > 8703 Construction Materials Performance and Processes > 870303 Polymeric Materials (e.g. Paints)
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 24 MANUFACTURING > 2406 Environmentally sustainable manufacturing activities > 240699 Environmentally sustainable manufacturing activities not elsewhere classified
12 CONSTRUCTION > 1203 Construction materials performance and processes > 120304 Polymeric materials and paints
12 CONSTRUCTION > 1203 Construction materials performance and processes > 120306 Timber materials
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