Field Evaluation of Mainline Quality Track Using a Track Strength Test Vehicle

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American Railway Engineering Association
This report presents the results of field evaluation test of the prototype Track Strength Test Vehicle, the DECAROTOR, on mainline quality track. This work is part of the ongoing Track Strength Characterization Program, directed at measurements of the load-carrying capacity of railway track structures, the development of suitable measurement techniques, the demonstrations of the usefulness of such measurements, and ultimately the matching of the track strength with the vehicle loading. The tests reported here are the second in a series of field tests aimed at evaluating the capabilities and limitations of the Track Strength Testing concept. The objectives of these tests were to: (a)investigate the ability of the Decarotor to evaluate mainline quality track and to detect weaknesses in the track, (b)determine if the track strength testing concept could detect differences in mainline track "strength," normally permitted by railroads, and (c)evaluate the ability of stationary load-deflection tests to determine tie or fastener conditions. In order to achieve these objectives, a series of moving and stationary lateral track strength tests were conducted in March 1980 on the Southern Railway's mainline near Charlottesville, VA. The test section included two adjacent test zones. One zone was timbered and surfaced in late 1979 and was considered to represent "strong" standard mainline track. The second zone was last timbered in 1974, and was at the end of its six years maintenance cycle. It represented the "weakest" standard mainline track permitted by the railroad. The results of the tests showed that continuous track strength measurements were feasible. These measurements consistently and repeatedly identified weaknesses in the track, such as clusters of poor ties. In addition, these measurements were able to differentiate between the different levels of lateral track strength found in both mainline and yard quality track. These testing activities could be performed nondestructively by means of a moving inspection vehicle, so as to permit the evaluation of relatively long stretches of track. Finally, it was shown that stationary load-deflection tests can help identify the general condition of tie or fasteners. Further testing, however, is necessary in order to demonstrate the practical value of this testing technique.
Decarotor, Track strength
Zarembski, A. M., & Choros, J., “Field Evaluation of Mainline Quality Track Using a Track Strength Test Vehicle”, Bulletin of the American Railway Engineering Association, Bulletin 680, Volume 82, November - December 1980.