Track displacement and energy loss in a railway embankment

M. Hendry, David A. Hughes, L. Barbour

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    The mainline railway track between Dublin and Belfast was constructed during the 1850s, with substantial lengths of railway embankment constructed over soft, peaty soils. In recent years Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) has noticed that the sections of the railway track constructed on these peaty soils have been deteriorating at an increasing rate. Train speeds have been reduced in response to concerns that cyclic track displacements appear to be increasing over time in response to train loading. Track maintenance has also increased significantly. The research described in this paper was undertaken to quantify the response to cyclic train loading of two portions of this track founded on peaty soils. Track displacements were recorded using a sensor system specifically created for this project. The sensor consisted of a photosensitive array, mounted on the sleepers, and a laser, which was targeted onto the photosensitive array from a location outside the area of influence of train loading. Track deflections from 5 to 20 mm were measured under train speeds from near zero to over 120 km/h. The temporal variation in track displacement was used to calibrate an analytical (Winkler) model. This analysis suggests that the deformation of the embankment under train loading was not due to dynamic excitation but rather to static deformation of the poor-quality fill and soft foundation materials. As a consequence, the analytical model highlighted that train speed has limited effect on the magnitude of the deflection of the embankment within NIR operating speeds, but has the potential to significantly reduce the power lost to the damping within the embankment and subgrade.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-12
    Number of pages10
    JournalProceedings of the ICE - Geotechnical Engineering
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2010


    • dynamics
    • rail track design
    • embankments

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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