The demand on South African railway freight lines is growing constantly with respect to train speeds
and axle loading, thus increasing the forces and stresses experienced by the track structure. This may
lead to rapid track deterioration as a result of a loss in track geometry caused by the poor and nonuniform
underlying support. The railway engineering industry has moved towards gaining a better
understanding of track formation behaviour for development of practical and effective deflection
measurement techniques that allow accurate determination of formation structural capacity,
identification of track problem areas and evaluation of track condition. Thus, there is a need to
develop a deflection measurement method that can accurately evaluate the track formation condition
through analysis of the full deflection basin under train passage, in order to quantify the formation
structural capacity based on the relevant in-service conditions.
In this research study, a mechanistic-empirical method (referred to as the inverse method) is proposed
with the main objective of developing an alternative method for evaluation of formation layer
structural capacity through the inverse estimation of formation layers’ elastic moduli. The method
was founded on surface deflection theory from falling weight deflectometer (FWD) analysis. Finite
element analysis and field data from railway substructure deflections under train transient loading obtained through multi-depth deflectometers (MDDs) were used to assess the validity of the inverse
method by comparing measured and modelled railway substructure responses.
The results showed that substructure deflections and stresses are affected by the complex
superposition of different bogie loading configurations on a particular superstructure. The increase
in axle loading was found to be directly proportional to the increase in formation peak deflection.
The effect of travelling speed was however insignificant for speeds less than 80 km/h. Furthermore,
the load distribution in the railway substructure did not follow a 45o influence line as commonly
assumed in surface deflection theory. On the contrary, railway equilibrium influence lines (EILs)
were significantly influenced by the elastic moduli of the formation layers and in-situ subgrade,
therefore governed by the structural capacity of the substructure layers.
The research therefore concluded that the formation layers are expected to gradually deteriorate and
experience increased deflections over time. However, the top of formation may vary as it seems to
be highly influenced by the superstructure load distribution. The inverse method strongly agreed with
the long-term formation peak strains measured with MDDs. Furthermore, the method was
determined suitable for evaluation of formation structural capacity, as good agreement was found
between the measured and estimated formation layers’ elastic moduli.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2018.