Steel Trough Sleeper

About 27% of the track on Indian Railways is laid on steel sleepers (Fig. 7.4). The increasing shortage of timber in the country and other economical factors are mainly responsible for the use of steel sleepers in India. Steel sleepers have the following main advantages/disadvantages over wooden sleepers.

Steel trough sleeper (BG 90 R)
Fig. 7.4 Steel trough sleeper (BG 90 R)


(a) Long life

(b) Easy to maintain gauge and less maintenance problems

(c) Good lateral rigidity

(d) Less damage during handling and transport

(e) Simple manufacturing process

(f) Very good scrap value

(g) Free from decay and attack by vermin

(h) Not susceptible to fire hazards


(a) Liable to corrode

(b) Unsuitable for track-circuited areas

(c) Liable to become centre-bound because of slopes at the two ends

(d) Develops cracks on rail seats during service

(e) Design is rail specific

Design Features

The steel trough sleeper essentially consists of a rolled steel plate of about 2 mm thickness pressed into a suitable trough shape and the rail seat canted to 1 in 20. The ends of the rolled section are flattened out in the shape of a spade to retain the ballast. Two alternative types of sleepers have been designed for each rail section as per the following details.

1. In one type, the lugs or jaws are pressed out of the plate itself to accommodate the foot of the rail and the key (Fig. 7.5). There are several maintenance problems with these pressed up lugs, as they give way due to the movement of the keys as well as due to the vibrations and impact of the moving loads.

2. In order to obviate this defect, another sleeper design has been adopted. In this design, two holes are punched into either side of the plate to accommodate specially designed 'loose jaws' (Fig. 7.6). The rails are held with the help of two standard keys driven either into the pressed up lugs or into the loose jaws.

The adjustment of the gauge to the extent of 3 mm is done by properly driving in the keys. In the double-line section, the keys are driven in the direction of the traffic. The approximate weight of a standard BG trough sleeper is 81 kg and that of an MG sleeper is 35 kg. The steel trough (ST) sleeper has an average life of about 50 years. It is an acceptable type of sleeper for use with long welded rails because of its lateral stability and its adaptability for use along with elastic fastenings.


All steel sleepers conforming to Indian Railways specifications T-9 are classified as first quality sleepers. The sleepers not accepted as first quality but free from the following defects are termed second quality steel trough sleepers.

(a) Inward tilt at rail seat beyond the limits of 1 in 15 to 1 in 25

(b) Sleepers with a twist

(c) Heavy scale fitting or deep grooves or cuts

(d) Deep guide marks at heads, blisters, etc.

All first quality sleepers are normally marked by a green dot. Sleepers that have been rejected as first quality sleepers on account of pipes, seams, and laps but are free from the defects indicated above are marked with a cross (*) in yellow paint at the centre. All other second quality steel trough sleepers are marked distinctly with a 15-cm-wide strip of yellow paint at one end. Sleepers that are unfit as second quality are given a distinct red paint mark to avoid mixing them up with first and second quality sleepers during loading.

Maintenance Problems

It has been noticed that the keys used to fix rails on steel sleepers tend to become loose due to the bending of the pressed up lugs or due to wear at the rail seat. The holes also get elongated during service. Special types of shims and liners are provided in these cases to hold the gauge well. Mota Singh Liner is a very effective type of liner used for holding the correct gauge for oblong holes with loose jaws. Another maintenance problem with steel trough sleepers is that these tend to become centre-bound if due care is not taken while packing. The ballast is normally removed from the centre of the sleepers after packing so as to ensure that centre binding of the sleepers does not take place. Sometimes the alignment of steel sleeper tracks also gets affected by the overdriving of the keys.

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