Effect of bending and compressive modulus of elasticity on the behaviour of timber-alternative railway sleepers supported by ballast

Choman salih, Allan Manalo*, Wahid Ferdous, Peng Yu, Rajab Abousnina, Tom Heyer, Peter Schubel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
247 Downloads (Pure)


Alternative railway sleeper technologies for replacement of timber are made of materials possessing a wide range of bending and compressive moduli. This poses a great challenge to railway authorities and engineers in designing a railway track supported by different sleeper technologies. This study evaluates the static behaviour of a railway track supported by different alternative railway sleeper technologies, i.e. recycled plastics (1.0 GPa), synthetic composites (7.4 GPa), timber (13.0 GPa), and low profile prestressed concrete sleepers (38.0 GPa), using a ballast box test representing a single sleeper section of a track. The deflection profiles along the length of the sleepers under a full service load was captured using Digital Image Correlation technique combined with the strain measurements at the top-centre of the sleepers. Three-dimensional Finite Element simulation of the sleepers’ behaviour based on the Beam on Elastic Foundation theory was implemented and validated by the experimental results. The results show that sleepers with bending modulus of less than 13.0 GPa will have W-shape deflection profile and a high rail seat deflection while sleepers with a bending modulus of 38.0 GPa will show nearly flat behaviour. Local deformation at the rail seat region accounts for almost 6 % of the total deflection of sleepers on a low subgrade modulus and as high as 10 % for high subgrade modulus. The results of this study provide a better insight into the in-track behaviour of alternative sleeper technologies having distinctive material properties.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00597
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalCase Studies in Construction Materials
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Composite sleeper
  • Timber-alternative sleeper
  • Ballast box test
  • Beam on elastic foundation (BOEF)
  • Modulus of elasticity
  • Compressive modulus


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