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Functions of ballast
Transfers the load from the sleeper to the
subgrade, and distributes it uniformly over the
Holds the sleepers in position and prevents
the lateral and longitudinal movement due to
the movement of train.
Imparts Degree of elasticity to the track.
Provides easy maintenance and alignment.
Helps in drainage.

Requirements of the good ballast

It should resist crushing under dynamic loads.
It should not make the track due to powder
under the dynamic wheel loads.(but should
provide easy drainage)
It should provide resistance to abrasion and
It should not produce chemical action with rail
and metal sleepers.
The ballast should be available in nearby quarries
so that it reduces the cost of supply.

Types of ballast
Broken stone
It is the best material for ballast
Broken stone satisfies all the specifications and
requirements of a good ballast.
Used in high speed tracks in India(quarzite and granite)
Non- porous ,hard and angular.
Where such hard stone is not available sand stone and
lime stone are used .
For better stability graded broken stones are used.(5.08
to 1.9 cm)

Advantages(Igneous Rocks) :
Provides strength, stability, durability, drainability,
economy and workability.
Ballast cushion is minimum.
Initial cost is high.
Angular shape injures wooden sleepers during
(Best suited for ballast)
Advantage(Aqueous Rocks )
Less in cost than igneous rocks.
Easily broken down to pieces.
(Fairly good ballast)


Gravel or River Pebbles or Shingle

Obtained form river beds or from gravel pits.
Smooth pebbles are broken, otherwise
packing does not hold.
The process of ramming the ballast
underneath sleeper is known as packing.
The ballast above this layer which surrounds
the sleeper, is loose filled and is known as
The loose ballast between the two adjacent
sleepers is known as ballast crib.

Advantages :
Less in cost
Does not injure wooden sleepers
Maintains good packing in pot C.S.T -9 sleepers.
It has good drainage quality
Packing gets disturbed in flat sleepers.
Needs greater cushion
To prevent spreading ballast wall is provided.
(Suitable ballast material, where good ballast
material is not available )

Gravel or River Pebbles or Shingle

Ashes or cinders :
Material is available in large quantities on
railways from coal being used in locomotives.
Has excellent drainage property.
It is cheap and largely used in sidings but not
used for main lines as it is very soft (powdered
due to wheel load).
It has corrosive property .(corrodes the steel
sleeper & rail).

Advantages :
Excellent for station yards.
Prevents vegetable growth.
Provides fairly good drainage
Easy in handling and less material cost.
Good ballast for station yards.
Specially useful in emergency .
Disadvantages :
Corrodes metal sleeper and foot of the rails.
Soft and light so the track becomes dusty.

Ashes or cinders

Sand :
It cheap and provides good drainage.
It provides silent track and used in packing pot
The sand has blowing tendency due to
vibration(causes wear) and hence
maintenance of track is difficult.
Sand ballast is covered with a layer of stone or
brick to prevent the blowing effect of the
Used in narrow gauge.

Advantages :
Cheap material
Good drainage provided if free from vegetation
and earth,
Produces a silent track.
In particular good for packing cast iron sleepers.
Disadvantages :
Sand is easily blown off and causes wear of rails.
Sand ballast requires frequent renewal.
Maintenance of ballast track is difficult.
(unsuitable for heavy traffic )


Used when it contains large quanties of small
laterite stones.
Used in sidings and main tracks when they are
newly laid.
Advantages :
Cheapest if it is available locally.
Makes the track loss noisy
Suitable for station yards.
It possesses good drainage properties .

Disadvantages :
Turns into dust in very short time as it very
short time.
Maintenance of moorum as ballast is very
(Never used as permanent ballast)

Very soft and get powdered easily under wheel
Used for M.G & N.G tracks with light traffic and
where a better type of the ballast is not

Brick Ballast :
Over burnt bricks are broken into small sizes are
Powders easily and produces a dusty track.
Provides good drainage.

Advantages :
It is cheap
Readily and locally available
It has fairly good drainage facilities .
Unsuitable for heavy and high speed traffic.
Makes the tracks dusty and muddy causes
corrosion of metal sleepers and rails.
Causes roaring of rails.
(Good ballast material where suitable ballast
material is not available)

Blast Furance Slag :

Obtained as a by-product in the manufacture of
pig iron.
Slag is poured in shallow pits of thin layers,
cooled and the ballast obtained from digging,
crushing and screening from the cooled slag.

Selected earth :
Hardened clay and decomposed rock are suitable

Size and section of ballast

The size of ballast varies from 1.9cm to 5.1 cm.
Stones of larger size are not used as interlocking is
very difficult.
The size of ballast depends upon the type of
Ballast size for wooden sleepers tracks = 5.1 cm
Ballast size for steel sleepers tracks = 3.8 cm
Ballast size for under switches and crossing = 2.54

The section of ballast consists of

depth of ballast under the sleepers
width of the ballast layer
Depth of ballast :
Important factor:
Load bearing capacity & uniformity of distribution
of loads.
More is the depth of ballast more will be the
load- bearing capacity.
Width ballast:
Width of ballast is important factor in deciding the
lateral strength of the track.

Minimum depth of ballast

Sleeper spacing = width of sleeper(w)+ 2 x
depth of ballast (Db)
Db= S-w/2

Quantity of ballast
Quantities of sleeper depend on the type of
Wooden and concrete through sleepers because
of their bulk, require slightly less ballast than pot
or trough sleepers.
Along the curves large quantity of ballast are
1.036 m3 = B.G
0.71 m3 = M.G
0.53 M3 = N.G

Due to repeated movement of wheel loads over
the railway track, the ballast material gets
crushed to smaller sizes.
Crushed particles get filled in voids and form an
impervious layer, preventing the rapid flow rain
Quantity of ballast is reduced due to :
a) Blowing away of the ballast by the movement of
b) Penetration of the ballast in the formation
c) Loss of ballast due to rain water and wind

To make up the loss, the ballast is renewed

from time to time.
The crushed ballast are removed by screening.

First such tracks were mountain railways
(like Pilatus railway, built in 1889) with rails
attached directly to the mountain rock.
From the late 1960s onwards, German,
British, Swiss and Japanese railroads
experimented with alternatives to the
traditional railway tie in search of solutions
with higher accuracy and longevity, and
lowered maintenance costs.

This gave rise to the ballastless railway track,

especially in tunnels, high-speed rail lines and
on lines with high train frequency, which have
high stress imposed on trackage.
Paved concrete track has the rail fastened
directly to a concrete slab, about half a meter
thick, without ties.
A similar but less expensive alternative is to
accurately position concrete ties and then
pour a concrete slab between and around
them; this method is called "cast-in precast
sleeper track".

These systems offer the advantage of superior

stability and almost complete absence of
deformation. Ballastless track systems incur
significantly lower maintenance costs compared
to ballasted track.
Due to the absence of any ballast, damage by
flying ballast is eliminated, something that occurs
at speeds in excess of 250 km/h (150 mph).
It is also useful for existing railroad tunnels; as
slab track is of shallower construction than
ballasted track, it may provide the extra overhead
clearances necessary for converting a line
to overhead electrification, or for the passage of
larger trains.[

Building a slab track is more expensive than

building traditional ballasted track, which has
slowed its introduction outside of high-speed
rail lines.
These layouts are not easy to modify after
they are installed.
The curing time of the concrete makes it
difficult to convert an existing, busy railway
line to a ballastless setup.
Slab track can also be significantly louder and
cause more vibration than traditional
ballasted track.