Design of a concept wedge-shaped self-levelling railway sleeper

Wenli Jia, Valeri Markine, Mario Carvalho, David P. Connolly, Yunlong Guo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


Differential railway track settlement can result in ballast voids, leading to sleepers that hang from the rail and are no longer supported by the ballast. These hanging sleepers are damage for track component. As a solution, this paper proposes and investigates a new concept sleeper with a wedge-shaped geometry, intended to stimulate the migration of ballast into any voids, thus reducing the occurrence of hanging sleepers. A series of scaled laboratory tests and 2D and 3D discrete element simulations are used to investigate different wedge-shaped geometries. The investigations include the wedge type (single long wedge versus multiple mini-wedges) and the wedge angle (30, 45, 60 degrees). First, the scaled laboratory tests are used to study the performance of different wedge geometries. Next, 3D DEM simulations are performed to analyse the contact forces in the ballast due to different wedge designs. Finally, 2D DEM simulations are performed to study the settlement behaviour. The main conclusions are that a single long wedge is preferable compared to multiple smaller wedges. when the wedge sleeper angle is larger than the ballast's angle of repose, particles have the freedom to migrate into the settlement induced voids. Also, an increased wedge sleeper angle stimulates greater particle migration and thus improves the support correction. However the longer wedge also leads to a decrease in effective ballast height under sleeper which may make retrofitting on existing lines challenging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number131524
Number of pages15
JournalConstruction and Building Materials
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Ballast voiding
  • Differential settlement
  • Discrete element ballast modelling
  • Railway sleeper-tie
  • Railway transition zone
  • Scaled ballast testing


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