Concrete Sleepers

The need for concrete sleepers has been felt mainly due to economic considerations coupled with changing traffic patterns. In the early days of Indian Railways, wood was the only material used for making sleepers in Europe. Even in those days, the occasional shortage of wooden sleepers and their increasing price posed certain problems and this gave a fillip to the quest for an alternative material for sleepers. With the development of concrete technology in the nineteenth century, cement concrete had established its place as a versatile building material and could be adopted suitably to meet the requirements of a railway sleeper. In the year 1877, Mr Monnier, a French gardener and inventor of reinforced concrete, suggested that cement concrete could be used for making sleepers for railway tracks. Monnier in fact designed a concrete sleeper and obtained a patent for it, but his design did not work successfully. The design was further developed and the railways of Austria and Italy produced the first concrete sleepers with a promising design around the turn of the nineteenth century. This was closely followed by other European railways, where large-scale trials of concrete sleepers were done mostly due to economic considerations.

However, not much progress could not be achieved till the second world war, when wooden sleepers practically disappeared from the European market and their prices shot up. Almost at the same time, as a result of extensive research carried out by French Railways and other European railways, the modern track was born. Heavier rail sections and long welded rails came into existence. The necessity of a heavier and better type of sleeper that could fit the modern track was felt. These

conditions gave a spurt to the development of concrete sleepers and countries such as France, Germany, and Britain went a long way in developing concrete sleepers to perfection.


The development of concrete sleepers that took place on various railway systems was mainly based on the following concepts of design.

(a) RCC or prestressed sleepers similar in shape and size to wooden sleepers

(b) Block-type RCC sleepers connected by a steel tie bar

(c) Prestressed concrete blocks and a steel or an articulated concrete tie bar

(d) Prestressed (pre-tensioned or post-tensioned) type of concrete sleepers

These four concepts of design are the basis of the development of present-day

Advantages and disadvantages

Concrete sleepers have the following advantages and disadvantages.


(a) Concrete sleepers, being heavy, lend more strength and stability to the track and are specially suited to LWR due to their great resistance to buckling of the track.

(b) Concrete sleepers with elastic fastenings allow a track to maintain better gauge, cross level, and alignment. They also retain packing very well.

(c) Concrete sleepers, because of their flat bottom, are best suited for modern methods of track maintenance such as MSP and mechanical maintenance, which have their own advantages.

(d) Concrete sleepers can be used in track-circuited areas, as they are poor conductors of electricity.

(e) Concrete sleepers are neither inflammable nor subjected to damage by pests or corrosion under normal circumstances.

(f) Concrete sleepers have a very long lifespan, probably 40-50 years. As such rail and sleeper renewals can be matched, which is a major economic advantage.

(g) Concrete sleepers can generally be mass produced using local resources. Disadvantages

(a) Handling and laying concrete sleepers is difficult due to their large weights. Mechanical methods, which involve considerable initial expenditure, have to be adopted for handling them.

(b) Concrete sleepers are heavily damaged at the time of derailment.

(c) Concrete sleepers have no scrap value.

(d) Concrete sleepers are not suitable for beater packing.

(f) Concrete sleepers should preferably be maintained by heavy 'on track' tampers.

Design considerations

Two different concepts are being adopted by German and French Engineers in designing the section of a concrete sleeper. The Germans, having adopted a beam type sleeper, consider the sleeper as a rigid, stiff, and continuous beam supported on a firm and unyielding bed. The French engineers however, consider the sleeper as two separate blocks connected by a tie bar and resting on a resilient ballast bed. The former design is based on static loading, while the latter theory caters for a slightly differential settlement of ballast support. As the calculations based on the latter theory are quite complicated and difficult, the sleeper design based on this concept has been evolved mostly on an empirical basis.

The forces and factors considered in the design of concrete sleepers are the following.

(a) Forces acting on a sleeper

(b) Effects of the geometric form including shape, size, and weight

(c) Effect of the characteristics of fastenings used

(d) Provision of failure against derailments

Need for concrete sleepers in India

In India there has been a chronic shortage of wooden sleepers over the last few decades. Wooden sleepers of various species in India have a short life-span of about 15-20 years. In view of this drawback of wooden sleepers, cast iron and steel trough sleepers have been used extensively. The consumption of these metal sleepers at present is quite high and Indian Railways consumes about 40% of the entire pig iron production in the country. There is a need to reduce pig iron consumption by the Railways so that the iron can be made available in large quantities for defence purposes and other heavy engineering industries. In addition, higher speeds, welding of rails, and installation of long welded rails have recently been introduced in Indian Railways. A sleeper for a long welded track has to be heavy and sturdy and should be capable of offering adequate lateral resistance to the track. Wooden and steel sleepers were found to be totally lacking in these requirements. Both these considerations led to investigations for selecting a suitable concrete sleeper for use on Indian Railways.

Loading conditions adopted by Indian Railways

Concrete sleepers have been designed by the Research Design and Standard Organization (RDSO) wing of Indian Railways for the following different loading conditions.

BG sleeper

(a) 15 t vertical loads at the rail seat.

(b) Vertical load of 15 t at rail seats plus a reaction at the centre of the sleeper equal to half of the load under the rail seat.

(c) A vertical load of 13 t and a lateral load of 7 t directed towards the outside of one rail only.

The sleeper is designed to resist a bending moment of 1.33 t m at the rail seat and 0.52 t m at the centre of the sleeper.

MG sleeper

(a) Vertical loads of 10 t at the rail seats plus a reaction at the centre of sleeper equal to half of that under the rail seat.

(b) Vertical loads of 8 t at the rail seats with 4.5 t lateral force directed towards the outside of one rail only.


The various types of concrete sleepers (prestressed, pre-tension, post-tension, and two-block) being manufactured by Indian Railways have been described in Table 7.6.

Table 7.6 Different types of concrete sleepers being manufactured by Indian Railways


Type of


Rail section

Standard drawing number

Sleeper design number


Mono block

60 kg




Mono block

52 kg




Mono block

60 kg/52 kg


Post-tension type


Mono block

90 R/75 R




Mono block

90 R




Twin block

75 R/60 R




Twin block

75 R



Mono-block prestressed concrete sleepers with pandrol clips

The mono-block prestressed concrete sleeper (Fig. 7.11), which is similar to the German B-58 type of sleeper, has an overall length of 2750 mm and a weight of 270 kg approximately. The sleeper has a trapezoidal cross section with a width of 154 mm at the top and 250 mm at the bottom and a height of 210 mm at the rail seat. A cant of 1 in 20 is provided on the top surface of the sleeper for a distance of 175 mm on either side of the centre line of the rail to cover the area of rail fittings. The sleeper is prestressed with 18 high tensile steel (HTS) strands of 3 x 3 mm diameter and 12 6-mm-diameter mild steel links. The initial prestressing of the steel is 100 kg/cm2. The 28-day crushing strength of the concrete is normally not less than 525 kg/cm2.

Mono-block prestressed concrete sleeper
Fig. 7.11 Mono-block prestressed concrete sleeper

The rail rests on a grooved 130 x 130 mm rubber pad, with the grooves lying parallel to the axis of the rail. The fastenings provided for the 52-kg rail are Pandrol clips, which are held in malleable cast iron inserts as shown in Fig. 7.12.

PCS-12 and PCS-14

PCS-12 is the latest type of prestressed concrete (PRC) sleeper for use on BG routes with 52-kg rails and elastic rail clips. For use with 60-kg rails and elastic rail clips, the PCS-14 sleeper has been standardized on Indian Railways.

PCS-12 mono-block concrete sleeper (units in mm)
Fig. 7.13 PCS-12 mono-block concrete sleeper (units in mm)

The important dimensions of both of these types of sleepers are shown in Fig. 7.13 and listed as follows.

Length = 2750 mm

Weight = 267 kg

Reinforcement: Eighteen 3 x 3 mm diameter strands

Concrete is to be of controlled quality with a minimum 28-day crushing strength of 525 kg/cm2

Each strand to be tensioned with an initial tensile force of 2730 kg

Mono-block post-tension type of concrete sleepers for BG

The first factory in India for the manufacture of post-tension type of mono-block concrete sleepers was set up by Northern Railways at Allahabad in collaboration with M/s Dyckerhoff and Widmann (D&W) of West Germany. The factory, which started production in 1981, has a planned capacity of manufacturing 300,000 concrete sleepers per year. The salient feature of post-tension type of concrete sleepers are the following.

Size of sleeper

Length = 2750 mm

Width at centre = 160 mm (top)

200 mm (bottom)

Depth at centre = 180 mm

Weight = 295 kg

Design features

Initial prestressing force = 37 t

Final prestressing force = 31 t

Minimum concrete strength in 28 days = 550 kg/cm2

Minimum strength of concrete at the time of applying prestress = 450 kg/ cm 2

The use of concrete sleepers using the post-tension method has not been successful on Indian Railways and its manufacture has since been stopped.

Mono-block PRC sleepers for MG (PCS-17)

A design for mono-block PRC sleepers (PCS-17) has recently been standardized for MG. The sleeper has a trapezoidal cross section similar to that of a BG sleeper. The concrete should have a 28-day compressive strength of 525 kg/cm2. The salient features of this sleeper are the following (Fig. 7.14).

PCS-17 concrete sleeper for MG (units in mm)
Fig. 7.14 PCS-17 concrete sleeper for MG (units in mm)

Length = 2000 mm

Weight = 158.5 kg

Reinforcement: Twelve 3 x 3 mm diameter strand of HTS wire tensioned to initial force of 2730 kg

PRC sleepers can be used for 90 R rails with elastic rail clips and glass filled nylon liners (GFN 66) and on sole plates.

Two-block RCC sleeper for BG yards

A design for a two-block RCC sleeper for BG yards has been standardized by RDSO as per drawing number RDSO/T-2521 for extensive trials on Indian Railways. There is a general scarcity of wooden and CST-9 sleepers for use in BG yards and the new RCC sleepers will ease the situation in a big way. Some of the salient features of this sleeper are as follows.

Considering low speeds in yard lines and less impact effect, the rail seat design load has been taken only as 10 t without any lateral thrust.

Size at rail seat (top width x bottom width x depth) = 22 cm x 30 cm x 17 cm

Overall length of the sleeper = 247.5 cm

Weight of the sleeper = 170 kg

Main reinforcement in each block

| At top: Five 8-mm-diameter steel bars

| At bottom: Two 8-mm-diameter steel bars

The fastenings used are steel clips and a spring washer with screw fitted to a polythene dowel.

Two-block concrete sleeper for MG yards

Two-block concrete sleepers for use in MG yards have recently been developed. The sleeper consists of two cement concrete blocks, each weighting about 36 kg and consisting of an MS reinforcement of about 7 kg. The two RCC sleeper blocks are connected by an angle tie bar of 55 x 50 x 6 mm section and 1.5 m length. The rail is fixed to the sleeper block either by a clip and bolt arrangement or by polythene dowels and rail screws. A pad is provided below the rail seat to provide cushioning.

Mono-block versus two-block concrete sleepers

There are relative advantages and disadvantages of mono-block and two-block concrete sleepers. Some of these are enumerated below.

(a) Mono-block sleepers give better longitudinal and lateral stability to the track compared to two-block concrete sleepers.

(b) The mono-block concrete sleeper, being a monolithic concrete mass, is likely to have a longer working life compared to the two-block concrete sleeper connected with a tie bar. In the latter case, a tie bar is weak and has a comparatively shorter life due to corrosion, etc.

(c) The mono-block concrete sleeper requires heavy capital expenditure for its manufacture, being a prestressed reinforced concrete unit, compared to the two-block sleeper, which is an ordinary reinforced concrete sleeper.

(d) In a mono-block prestressed concrete sleeper, a crack that develops because of overstressing is likely to close down upon return to normal condition, whereas in a two-block sleeper, such a crack will continue to remain open.

(e) Mono-block sleepers are likely to become centre-bound unlike two-block sleepers.

(f) During derailments and rough handling the tie bars of two-block sleeper get deformed, thereby affecting the gauge.

(g) In a two-block sleeper, the two blocks are not likely to rest on the ballast in a way that each rail is properly inclined to the vertical, a feature which could affect the alignment and gauge of the track.

Sleepers for Turnouts

A railroad turnout is a mechanical installation that enables trains to be guided from one line of rail tracks to another. In this section we discuss sleepers and sleeper designs for turnouts.

Prestressed concrete sleepers for turnouts

Due to the acute shortage of wood, especially of long timbers required for points and crossings, it was felt necessary to develop PRC sleepers for use on turnouts in track-circuited areas. RDSO developed a PRC sleeper design with a rectangular cross section in July 1986 for 1 in 12 left-hand turnouts with a 7730-mm curved switch for use with 52-kg rails. These PRC sleepers for turnouts have been manufactured in the PRC sleeper factory at Khalispur, and these sleepers are on trial on Northern Railways at present. The salient features of these sleepers are the following.

(a) The sleepers have a rectangular cross section.

(b) There are 74 sleepers comprising 2l sleepers in switch assembly, 3 in intermediate sub-assembly and 18 in crossing sub-assembly.

(c) The sleepers are of varying lengths and design. There are 16 different turnout sleeper designs.

(d) These sleepers require the use of a number of fittings different from the existing standard fittings. The grooved rubber pads are of a standard 4.5 mm thickness, but of varying size.

New fan-type concrete sleeper for turnouts

The prestressed concrete sleepers discussed above are suitable only for 1 in 12 turnouts. RDSO has developed a new fan-type sleeper that can be used for 1 in 8.5 as well as 1 in 12 turnouts.

The new design of concrete sleepers has the following characteristics.

(a) The cross section of the sleeper in the new design is trapezoidal instead of rectangular as in the earlier design.

(b) The layout of the sleepers is fan shaped and the same design of sleepers can be used for right-hand as well as left-hand turnouts by rotating them 10° in a horizontal plane.

(c) Apart from approach sleepers, 54 concrete sleepers are used for 1 in 8.5 turnouts and 83 concrete sleepers are used for 1 in 12 turnouts.

(d) The concrete used has a 28-day crushing strength of 600 kg/cm2.

(e) The sleepers are laid perpendicular to the main line on the switch portion. In the lead portion, sleepers are laid equally inclined to the straight and turnout tracks. In the crossing portion, the sleepers are laid perpendicular to the bisecting line of the crossing.

(f) The sleepers under the switch portion have dowels for fixing slide chairs with the help of screws. These sleepers are laid perpendicular to the main line and, therefore, can be used for both left-hand and right-hand turnouts.

(g) The mark 'RE' is provided on the fan-shaped PRC turnout sleepers at one end. The sleepers should be so laid that the end with the RE mark is always laid on the right-hand side.

Laying of the concrete sleepers on turnouts

The turnout locations where concrete sleepers are to be laid should have a clean ballast cushion of 30 cm thickness. Extra ballast should be available on the cess and the area should have good drainage. Depending upon the availability of space and various other site conditions, one of the following three methodologies or their combinations can be adopted for laying concrete sleeper turnouts.

Assembling the turnout at the site and replacing it during the block period by means of either cranes or rollers.

Carrying parts of the assembled turnout on dip lorries and replacing them during the block period.

Replacing the existing turnout sleeper by sleeper except for the switch portion, which can be assembled as one unit.

The assembling and laying should normally be done using a crane of suitable capacity. After removing old turnout sleepers, the ballast bed at the level of the bottom of the concrete sleepers for turnouts should be evened out. Vibrating rollers should be employed to the extent possible for compaction of ballast bed.

Turnouts with concrete sleepers can be maintained in any one of the following ways:

(a) using points and crossing tamper,

(b) using off-track tampers with lifting jacks, or

(c) measured shovel packing.

In the case of emergencies such as derailments, when the sleepers may be damaged, temporary repairs should be carried out by interlacing wooden sleepers for permitting traffic with restricted speed. The damaged concrete sleepers are replaced by a fresh lot of turnout concrete sleepers as a permanent measure as early as possible. The wooden sleepers and any other damaged sleepers are replaced one by one with new turnout sleepers.


Prestressed concrete sleepers can be of the pre-tensioned or post-tensioned type. In the case of pre-tensioned sleepers, the force is transferred to the concrete through bonds or through a combination of bonds and positive anchors. Bond transmission lengths and the losses in prestress vitally affect the design and determine the quality of manufacture. In the post-tensioned type of sleeper, the force is transferred only through positive anchors.

Mono-block prestressed

Mono-block concrete sleepers are generally manufactured by the 'long line method'. In this method, at a time, 30-40 moulds for casting concrete sleepers are kept in about 100-120-m-long casting beds. High tensile steel wires with diameters of 5 mm are anchored at the end block between the tension towers and moulds, and stretched by a specially designed tensioning method. The tensile stress in the wires should not exceed 70% of the specified minimum UTS (ultimate tensile stress). High-quality concrete, with a pre-designed mix, is then filled into the moulds. The newly laid cement concrete is thoroughly mixed and consolidated by means of high-frequency vibrators. The concrete is then cured after about 3 hours, preferably by steam. The wires are then destressed by Hover's method of destressing. The wires are cut and the line is released. The sleepers are further cured by submerging them into a water tank for a period of 14 days. Alternatively, the sleepers can also be steam cured.

Another method adopted sometimes for the manufacture of prestressed monoblock concrete sleepers is the short line method or 'stress bench method'. This process involves the use of short stress benches that accommodate 4-5 sleepers. The ends of the benches serve as anchor plates and comprise an iron frame to bear the initial prestressing force. The benches are on wheels and are mobile. The prestressing is done as in the case of the long line method. The concreting, vibrating, etc. is, however, done at a fixed place, the stress benches being moved into position one after another. This leads to better quality control in concrete mixing and compaction. Generally, after casting the benches are taken into steam chambers for curing with an overall turnround period of about 24 hours and a steam curing cycle of about 16 hours. This method of manufacture gives qualitatively better results and has been adopted by M/s Daya Engineering Works Pvt. Ltd, Gaya, and M/s Concrete Products and Construction Co., Chennai.

Prestressed mono-block concrete sleepers can also be manufactured by the individual mould method. This method is generally used when prestressing is transferred to concrete through bonds and positive anchorages in the case of pretensioned sleepers or only by positive anchors in the case of post-tensioned sleepers. The mould for the pre-tensioned type is designed to take the initial prestressing force and hence has to be sturdier than the moulds used in other systems. The moulds can adjust one to three sleepers, and as they move along the assembly line, various tasks, such as cleaning of moulds, insertion of high tensile stress wires, prestressing of wires, fixing inserts, concreting, vibrating, steam curing, and remoulding, are carried out on the manufacturing belt. This system involves a greater degree of automation, yields qualitatively better results, and requires the least amount of work force. In India, factories utilizing this technique have currently gone into production at Secunderabad and Bharatpur.


The manufacture of two-block concrete sleepers is simple and similar to that of any other ordinary precast RCC unit. These sleepers are manufactured in a mould in which the necessary reinforcement and tie bar are placed in position. Concrete

of designed mix is then poured into the mould and vibrated. The mould is removed after the concrete is set and the blocks are cured in water for a period of 14 days.


Post-tension type of concrete sleepers were earlier manufactured in the concrete sleeper plant at Allahabad as per the design submitted by D&W of Germany, which was approved by the Railway Board. The specialty of this patent design of D&W lies in the use of high tensile steel rods bent into the U shape known as 'hair pins', slits, and nuts. This process also involved the instantaneous demoulding of the products.

The technology of post-tension concrete sleepers has become outdated over time. The sleepers manufactured in the concrete sleeper plant (CSP) at Allahabad have been quite uneconomical and their rejection rate has also been quite high. In view of this, the manufacture of concrete sleepers by the post-tension method has been stopped in the CSP at Allahabad since July 1995.


In addition to the control checks exercised on the material and manufacturing process, the concrete and the finished sleepers are subjected to the following periodical checks and tests.

(a) The minimum 28-day compressive strength of the test cube should not be less than 525 kg/cm2. Sleepers from occasional batches in which the minimum crushing strength falls below 525 kg/cm2 but not below 490 kg/cm2 may be accepted subject to their passing the increased frequency of testing for static bending strength.

(b) The minimum compressive strength of the test cube of concrete at detensioning should not be less than 370 kg/cm2.

(c) The modulus of rupture should be as specified in the Concrete Bridge Code.

(d) The dimensional tolerance and surface finish of the sleepers should be checked using suitable templates and gauges.

(e) The cracking and failure moments of the sleepers should be tested at the following sections by applying suitable loads:

(a) Positive cracking moment at rail seat bottom

(b) Negative cracking moment at centre section top

(c) Positive cracking moment at centre section bottom

(d) Failure moment at rail seat bottom

(f) For the abrasion resistance test, the concrete sleeper is subjected to a vibrating load under specified conditions. After 300 hours of operating time, the loss in weight due to abrasion should not be more than 3%.


Concrete sleepers weigh about 215 to 270 kg and about 6 to 8 persons are required to handle one sleeper. The mechanical handling of concrete sleepers is, therefore, desirable for safety purposes.

Prohibited Locations

Concrete sleepers, because of their heavy weight and rigidity of structure, are not suited to yielding formations, fish-plated joints, and places where uniform packing cannot be achieved. Concrete sleepers as such are normally laid at only those locations where LWRs are permissible. These sleepers should not be laid at the following locations:

(a) New formation in banks unless specially compacted

(b) Any rock cuttings, except where a minimum depth of 300 mm of ballast cushion has been provided

(c) Un-ballasted lines in yards

(d) Curves of radius less than 500 m

(e) Troublesome formations

(f) Near ashpits and other locations where drivers habitually drop ash

(g) At locations where excessive corrosion is expected

(h) On un-ballasted bridges and on arch bridges, where the height between the arch and the bottom of the ballast section is less than 1 m, and on slab bridges, where the ballast cushion between the bottom of the sleepers and the top of the slab is less than 300 mm

(i) With fish-plated tracks. Should be used only with long welded rails. Fish-plated joints on concrete sleeper tracks, where unavoidable, should have wooden sleepers at joints.


Concrete sleepers are heavy, and as such manual handling of concrete sleepers is not only difficult, but may generally damage the sleeper as well. In exceptional cases, however, manual handling, including manual laying of concrete sleepers, is resorted to after taking adequate precautions.

In the case of the mechanical relaying system, normally two portal cranes are used on Indian Railways and relaying is done using prefabricated panels. The existing rail panels are removed by gantry cranes, the ballast is levelled up, and prefabricated panels are then laid with the help of portal cranes. The following operations are involved.

(a) Preparation work at the site of relaying

(b) Pre-assembly of panels in base depots

(c) Actual relaying operation

(d) Post-relaying work

The full details of the manual relaying method as well as of the mechanical relaying system are given in Chapter 21.


The following points need attention in the maintenance of concrete sleepers.

(a) Concrete sleepers should normally be maintained with heavy on-track tampers. For spot attention, MSP or off-track tampers may be used. The size of chips for MSP should be 8 mm-30 mm as required

(b) Only 30 sleeper spaces are to be opened out at a time between two fully boxed track stretches of 30 sleepers length each in case a LWR track exists.

(c) Concrete sleepers should be compacted well and uniformly to give a good riding surface. Centre binding of mono-block concrete sleepers should be avoided, for which the central 800 mm of the sleeper should not be hard packed.

(d) Both ends of the concrete sleepers should be periodically painted with anticorrosive paint to prevent corrosion of the exposed ends of prestressing wires. In the case of two-block sleepers, the tie bars should be examined every year, and if any sign of corrosion is noticed, the affected portion should be painted with an approved paint.

(e) Mechanical equipment should be used for laying and maintaining concrete sleepers as far as possible.

(f) Wherever casual renewal of concrete sleepers is to be done, the normal precautions followed for LWR tracks should be taken.

(g) The elastic rail clip should be driven properly to ensure that the leg of the clip is flush with the end face of the insert. Overdriving and underdriving should be guarded against, as these cause eccentric loading on the insulations, resulting in their displacement and in the variation of load.

(h) A vigilant watch should be kept to ensure that no creep occurs in any portion of the concrete sleeper track or there is no excessive movement near the switch expansion joint (SEJ).

(i) It must be ensured that the rubber pads are in their correct positions. Whenever it is found that the rubber pads have developed a permanent set, these should be replaced by new ones. Such examinations can be done at the time of destressing. Toe load can also be lost due to ineffective pads.

(j) Nylon or composite insulating liners used with Pandrol clips should be examined periodically for signs of cracking and breakage. Adequate care should be exercised when driving the clip at the time of installation to prevent damage.

(k) One of the biggest problems regarding the maintenance of a concrete sleeper track is that the elastic rail clips get seized with malleable cast iron (MCI) inserts not only during regular maintenance, but also during destressing, other incidental works, and derailments. The following remedial measures are suggested.

(i) At the base depot, all the elastic rail clips and MCI inserts should be thoroughly cleaned. Grease should then be applied on the central leg of the elastic rail clip (ERC) and the eye of the MCI insert. These should then be driven into place at the time of assembly of the service pan.

(ii) During service all the elastic rail clips must be taken out from the MCI inserts and cleaned with a wire brush and emery paper, specially on the central leg. The eyes of the MCI inserts must also be cleaned of any debris or rusted material. The central leg of the ERC should then be covered with good quality grease. The eyes of the MCI inserts should be smeared with the same grease before the treated ERCs are driven back. This has to be repeated every one year in corrosion prone areas. A maintenance checklist for concrete sleepers is given in Table 7.7.


Points for checking

Location of concrete

> Concrete sleepers should normally be laid on a LWR/


CWR track, first preference being given to high-speed routes and then to other routes. The track standard for the use of a concrete sleeper has been specified in chapter 5.

> Concrete sleepers should be used only at permitted locations. See section 7.8.6.

Sleeper spacing

> Spacing should be uniform, 60 cm for a sleeper density of 1660/km and 65 cm for a sleeper density of 1540/km.

Ballast section

> The specified ballast section for LWR should be


> In two-block RCC sleepers, a 1033-mm-wide central trough should be provided to avoid corrosion of the tie bar.

Handling of concrete

> Preferably mechanized means such as gentry cranes


should be used. In exceptional cases, manual handling should be done using sleeper slings and rail dollies, taking proper precautions to avoid damage to the sleeper.

Laying concrete

> Mechanical means, i.e., portal cranes with a pre-


assembled panel should be adopted.

> Manual laying should be adopted only in exceptional conditions and that too with proper precautions.

Maintenance of

> On-track tampers should be used for regular maintenance

of long stretches.

> Off-track tampers such as Chinese tampers or measured shovel packing should be used for isolated or short stretches.

> In emergencies, a blunt end beater should be used for packing.

Maintenance of

> Overdriving or underdriving of Pandrol clips should be

fastenings used with

guarded against.

concrete sleeper track

> It should be ensured that the rubber pad is in its correct position and renewed when these develop permanent set.

> Care should be taken while driving the clip into position to avoid damage to liners. Cracked liners should be replaced.

> At the time of initial laying as well as during service, all the MCI inserts and ERCs should be thoroughly cleaned and then grease applied on the central leg of ERC and the eye of the MCI insert.


Derailment is a kind of accident that occurs when the wheels of a vehicle mount the rail head. It causes excessive damage to the track in general and sleepers in particular.

The following actions should be taken in the eventuality of a derailment on a track with concrete sleepers.

(a) When the damage to concrete sleepers is not extensive and it is possible to allow the traffic to pass at a restricted speed, suitable speed restriction should be imposed after assessing the damage to the track. Sleepers should be replaced as in the case of casual renewals while taking all precautions. After all the damaged sleepers are replaced, the affected portion as well as the portions 100 m on either side adjacent to it should be distressed, and normal speed should be restored after consolidation.

(b) When the damage to the concrete sleeper is extensive and the track is distorted in such a way that it is not possible to allow traffic to pass even at a restricted speed, the affected portion should be isolated by introducing buffer rails on either end of it. The distorted track should be removed and replaced by the track laid on single-rail panels using the available rails and sleepers. The section should then be converted into long welded rails using concrete sleepers, taking the usual precautions laid down in the LWR manual.

Concrete Sleepers on Indian Railways

Indian Railways is modernizing its track in a big way to meet the challenges of heavier traffic at faster speeds. The modern track consisting of long welded 52-kg/ 60-kg rails, concrete sleepers, and elastic fastenings can meet the above requirements.

Prestressed concrete sleepers are most economical and technically best suited for high speeds and heavy traffic density. They provide a stable track structure, which requires less maintenance efforts. Maintenance of concrete sleepers track should, however, be done using track machines only.

It has been proposed that concrete sleepers should be provided on all important routes of Indian Railways. Adequate capacity has been developed for the production of these sleepers to meet all the requirements of IR. During 2003-04, 8.86 million concrete line sleepers (highest ever production) and 3426 sets of concrete turnout sleepers were produced. The intake of wooden sleepers for main lines has been completely stopped and emphasis is being laid on using concrete sleepers on turnouts.

Indian Railways is the world leader in the manufacture of concrete sleepers and is presently manufacturing about 60% of the total concrete sleepers in the world. These concrete sleepers have a very bright future on Indian Railways.


Sleepers support rails and transfer the live load of moving trains to the ballast and formation. Wooden sleepers are the best, as they satisfy almost all the requirements of an ideal sleeper. Scarcity of timber has led to the development of metal and concrete sleepers. Concrete sleepers have high strength and a long life, and are most suitable for modern tracks. Indian Railways has developed designs for prestressed concrete sleepers and these are being extensively used on all important routes.

Review Questions

1. What are the requirements of sleepers used in a railway track? Give a neat sketch of a typical BG mono-block prestressed sleeper. What are its advantages and drawbacks?

2. List the various types of sleepers used on Indian Railways. Which one would you consider to be the best for modern tracks and why?

3. Enumerate the loading conditions adopted by RDSO for the design of monoblock prestressed concrete sleepers in India.

4. List the various types of metal sleepers in use on Indian Railways. Describe mono-block prestressed concrete sleepers with a neat sketch. What are the reasons for their ever-increasing adoption the world over?

5. Using a sleeper density of N + 5, determine the number of sleepers required

for the construction of a 1800-m BG track. (Ans: 100)

6. Discuss the factors on which sleeper density depends. How is sleeper density expressed? Determine the number of sleepers required for the construction of a 640-m-long BG railway track, ensuring a sleeper density of (N + 7).

(Ans: 32)

7. Compare the characteristics of the different types of sleepers used in our country.

8. Compare the characteristics of wooden sleepers and reinforced concrete sleepers used on Indian Railways.

9. Explain the functions of sleepers and ballast in a railway track. Explain how the spacing of sleepers is determined. Give specific reasons for the necessity of regular maintenance of the ballast.

10. Draw a neat sketch of the prestressed concrete sleeper used on Indian Railways for broad gauge tracks. Give details of the location of wires and the seating and fastening arrangements.

11. What are the different types of sleepers used in the track on Indian Railways? Write down in brief the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

12. What are the advantages and disadvantages of steel trough sleepers? What is the function of tie bars in the case of cast iron pot sleepers? What is the relation between sleeper density and the width of ballast?

13. What is the difference between treated and untreated wooden sleepers? Describe briefly the use and methods of treatment of wooden sleepers being adopted on Indian Railways.

14. What are the loading conditions adopted by Indian Railways for the design of concrete sleepers? Discuss briefly the relative advantages and disadvantages of mono-block sleepers two-block sleepers.

15. What are the various methods of manufacture of concrete sleepers? Discuss briefly one of these methods on Indian Railways.

16. What is the future scope of concrete sleepers on Indian Railways? Discuss briefly the planning being done for the production of concrete sleepers in India.

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