Two decades of advancement in process simulation testing of ballast strength, deformation, and degradation

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
ASTM Special Technical Publication, 2018, STP 1605 pp. 11 - 38
Issue Date:
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© Copyright 2018 by ASTM International. This paper describes salient features of a set of large-scale ballast testing equipment developed at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and how the test results and research outcomes have contributed to transforming tracks in the Australian heavy haul and commuter networks, particularly with regards to the strength, deformation, and degradation of ballast. Ideally, ballast assemblies should be tested in prototype scale under actual loading conditions. This is because a reduction in particle sizes for testing in smaller equipment can reduce the internal angle of friction (shearing resistance) of the granular assembly in a macro sense, and the angularity of the particles in a micro sense, and hence the volumetric changes during the shearing process. In response to the worldwide lack of proper test facilities for ballast, the University of Wollongong has, since the early 1990s, designed and built a number of large-scale process simulation triaxial testing rigs. They are all custom made to minimize any boundary effects and also to evaluate the deformation and degradation of ballast, particularly the size, shape, and origin of aggregates used as ballast in Australian tracks. This triaxial process simulation equipment was originally used to characterize the behavior of coarse aggregate used for state railway standards for monotonie loading, but since then it has been fitted with dynamic actuators to simulate actual track conditions involving the true cyclic loading nature while also capturing the wheel-rail dynamics that correspond to high-speed commuter rail and fast heavy-haul operations. These tests invariably demonstrated completely different stress-strain and volumetric characteristics of ballast compared to conventional static or monotonie testing of the same test specimens.
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