Laboratory Tests for Physical Properties of Ballast

The following tests are recommended to judge the suitability of the ballast material for a railway track.

Aggregate Abrasion Value

To check for aggregate abrasion, a test sample of 10 kg of clean ballast conforming to the following grading is taken

Passing the 50-mm sieve and retained on the 40-mm square mesh sieve: 5000 g Passing the 40-mm and retained on the 25-mm square mesh sieve: 5000 g The sample, along with the abrasive charge, is placed in the Los Angeles machine, which is rotated at a speed of 30-33 rpm for 1000 revolutions. The sample is sieved and material coarser than the 1.70-mm sieve is washed, dried, and weighed. The difference between the original weight (A) and the final weight of the sample (B) is expressed as a percentage of the original weight of the test sample. This value is reported as the abrasion value.

A - B

Aggregate abrasion value =-x 100 (8.2)


Aggregate Impact Value

To check for aggregate impact, the test sample is prepared out of the track ballast in such a way that it has a grading that passes the 12.5-mm sieve and is retained on the 10-mm sieve. The ballast sample is oven dried and placed duly tamped in the different stages in a cylindrical metal container with 75 mm diameter. and 50 mm depth (weight A). The cup of the impact testing machine is fixed firmly in position on the base of the machine and entire test sample is placed in it and compacted by 25 strokes of the tamping rod. The test hammer weighing about 14 kg is raised 380 mm above the upper surface of the cup and dropped. The test sample is subjected to a total of 15 such blows. The sample is then removed and sieved using a 2.36-mm sieve and the weight of quantity retained is measured (weight B):

A - B

Aggregate impact value =-x 100 (8.3)


Flakiness Index

The flakiness index of an aggregate is the percentage by weight of the particles with a least dimension (thickness) less than three-fifths of their mean dimension. The test is not applicable to sizes smaller than 6.3 mm.

Track ballast sample of sufficient quantity is taken to provide a minimum of 200 pieces, which is weighed (weight A). The sample consisting of aggregates is sieved as per the prescribed procedure in a series of sieves. The flaky material is separated and weighed (weight B). The flakiness index is then determined by the total weight of the material passing the various sieves, expressed as a percentage of the total weight of the sample gauged.


Flakiness index = - x 100 A


Specific Gravity and Water Absorption Test

A sample consisting of at least 2000 g of aggregate is washed thoroughly to remove finer particles and dust. The whole material is then drained, placed in a wire basket, and immersed in distilled water at a temperature between 22°C and 32°C. The sample is shaken, jolted, and dried as per specific procedure. The sample is finally placed in an oven in a shallow tray at a temperature of 100°C to 110°C. It is then removed from the oven, cooled in the container, and weighed (weight C). The specific gravity and water absorption is calculated as follows:

where A = weight in grams of saturated aggregate in water, B = weight in grams of saturated dry aggregate in air, and C = weight in grams of oven-dried aggregate in air.

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