Novel bending test method for polymer railway sleeper materials

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Alternative sleeper technologies have been developed to address the significant need for the replacement of deteriorating timber railway sleepers. The review of the literature indicates that the railway sleepers might fail while in service, despite passing the evaluation tests of the current composite sleeper standards which indicated that these tests do not represent in situ sleeper on ballast. In this research, a new five‐point bending test is developed to evaluate the flexural behaviour of timber replacement sleeper technologies supported by ballast. Due to the simplicity, ac-ceptance level of evaluation accuracy and the lack of in‐service behaviour of alternative sleepers, this new testing method is justified with the bending behaviour according to the Beam on Elastic Foundation theory. Three timber replacement sleeper technologies—plastic, synthetic composites and low‐profile prestressed concrete sleepers in addition to timber sleepers—were tested under service loading condition to evaluate the suitability of the new test method. To address the differences in the bending of the sleepers due to their different modulus of elasticities, the most appropriate material for the middle support was also determined. Analytical equations of the bending moments with and without middle support settlement were also developed. The results showed that the five-point static bending test could induce the positive and negative bending moments experienced by railway sleepers under a train wheel load. It was also found that with the proposed testing spans, steel‐EPDM rubber is the most suitable configuration for low bending modulus sleepers such as plastic, steel‐neoprene for medium modulus polymer sleepers and steel‐steel for very high modulus sleepers such as concrete. Finally, the proposed bending moment equations can precisely predict the flexural behaviour of alternative sleepers under the five‐point bending test.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1359
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

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.


  • timber replacement sleeper
  • composite sleeper
  • five-point bending test
  • Beam on Elastic Foundation (BOEF)
  • in-track sleeper behaviour


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