Guidelines for Provision of Sub-ballast

The sub-ballast is normally made of granular material and is provided between the formation and the ballast in order to distribute the load evenly over the formation. The following points should be kept in mind while selecting a material for subballasts.

(a) The material should consist of coarse granular substance such as river gravel, stone chips, quarry grit, and predominantly coarse sand. Ash, cinder, and slag containing predominantly fine and medium sand should not be used.

(b) The material should be non-cohesive and graded. The uniformity coefficient should be more than 4 to ensure that the sub-ballast is well graded.

(c) The material should not contain more than 15% of fines that measure less than 75 microns.

(d) The thickness of the sub-ballast should not be less than 150 mm.


The ballast is a layer of granular material provided below and around sleepers to distribute load from the sleepers over a larger area of the formation. Any granular material can be used as ballast if it satisfies certain requirements of strength, size, and gradation. The ballast gets crushed because of the dynamic action of the wheel load and, therefore, requires regular maintenance. The thickness of the ballast cushion under the sleepers depends upon the axle load, type of sleepers, sleeper density, and other related factors.

Review Questions

1. Mention the properties required of a good ballast for a railway track.

2. Explain briefly how the pressure created by wheel loads is transmitted through the ballast. What factors of the ballast influence the intensity of the pressure on the formation?

3. (a) What are the functions of the ballast in a railway track?

(b) Explain the elastic-cum-frictional behaviour of ballast under passing wheel loads.

(c) What types and sizes of ballast are required for measured shovel packing?

4. What is the ballast? Why is it used in the railway track? Briefly describe the various types of ballasts used.

5. Explain the following with respect to the ballast used on Indian Railways.

(i) Functions

(ii) Requirements of ideal ballast material

(iii) Different materials used for ballast and their relative merits

6. Name six materials commonly used as ballast on Indian Railways. Write down the specifications of an ideal stone ballast.

7. Determine the optimum thickness of the stone ballast required below sleepers

of density M + 7 on a BG track. (Ans: 19.8 cm)

8. Sketch a typical section of an MG line on wooden sleepers and show the ballast cushion and side slopes for a sleeper density of M + 3.

9. What size of ballast is used for the main line, and points and crossings on Indian Railways?

10. Write short notes on the following.

(a) Abrasion test

(b) Impact test

(c) Oversized ballast

(d) Sub-ballast


Assessment of Ballast Requirements | RAILWAY ENGINEERING - Contents | Subgrade and Formation