The development of suitable cyclic loading and boundary conditions for ballast box tests

Author(s): T C U Jideani, PJ. Gräbe
Journal of South African Institution of Civil Engineering Vol 61 No 4, December 2019, Pages 59-72, Paper 0640


Laboratory tests on ballast give insight into the behaviour and performance of the ballast layer under passenger and heavy-haul traffic. It is important, however, to ensure that the simulation of train loads on the ballast layer in the laboratory represents in-situ loading conditions. Furthermore, the provision of ballast lateral confinement during laboratory tests should model the confinement along the track. With adequate, representative loading patterns and boundary conditions executed during laboratory tests on ballast, the overall response and performance of the ballast layer can be estimated and predicted more accurately. This gives an indication of an ideal response of the ballast layer in the field, as well as its impact on track structure deterioration.

The objective of this study was to develop suitable cyclic loading and boundary conditions for ballast box tests in the laboratory to represent similar conditions in the field. By conductingbox tests, the ballast deformation results revealed the suitable loading pattern that produced a similar rate of ballast strain accumulation as the Field Loading (FL) pattern. Furthermore, boundary condition results showed that decreasing the Level of Lateral Confinement (LoLC) increased the permanent deformation of the ballast layer and the breakage of ballast. The laboratory loading pattern developed in this research, as well as comparable laboratory and field boundary conditions, could provide accurate predictions of the long-term behaviour of ballast and support the planning for subsequent ballast maintenance interventions based on realistic and accurate laboratory test results.