Types Of Sleepers Used In Railway

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What Is Railway Sleeper?

Railway sleepers are rectangular-shaped components laid horizontally between two parallel rail tracks. Their primary purpose is to provide a secure base for the tracks, ensuring proper gauge, which is the distance between the two rails. These sleepers act as a foundation, distributing the load of passing trains and maintaining track stability.
Types Of Sleepers Used In Railway
Based on the materials used, railway sleepers are classified into following types.
  1. Wooden sleepers
  2. Concrete sleepers
  3. Metal sleepers.
  1. Wooden sleepers

Wooden sleepers, also known as timber sleepers or railroad ties, are an essential component of railway tracks. They provide support and stability to the rails, ensuring safe and smooth train operations. Wooden sleepers have been widely used in railway infrastructure for many years due to their unique properties and benefits.

Types Of Sleepers Used In Railway

Advantages Of Wooden Sleepers

1. Durability and Longevity

Wooden sleepers are known for their durability and long service life. When properly treated and maintained, they can withstand the harsh conditions of outdoor environments, including extreme temperatures and heavy loads. With regular inspections and timely maintenance, wooden sleepers can provide reliable support for decades. 

2. Cost-effectiveness

Compared to alternative materials like concrete or steel, wooden sleepers are more cost-effective. The production process of wooden sleepers is relatively simple and requires less energy and resources. Additionally, wooden sleepers can be easily repaired or replaced, reducing overall maintenance costs.

3. Environmental Sustainability

Wooden sleepers are considered more environmentally friendly compared to concrete or steel sleepers. Wood is a renewable resource, and responsible sourcing and forest management can ensure a sustainable supply. Additionally, wooden sleepers have a lower carbon footprint during production and disposal, making them a greener choice for railway infrastructure.

4. Noise and Vibration Reduction

Wooden sleepers possess natural sound-dampening properties, which help in reducing noise and vibrations generated by passing trains. This is especially beneficial in urban areas where noise pollution from railways can be a concern. The absorption and dissipation of vibrations by wooden sleepers contribute to a quieter and more comfortable environment for nearby residents.


Disadvantages Of Wooden Sleepers

1. Vulnerability to Decay and Insect Infestation

Wooden sleepers are susceptible to decay caused by moisture and insect infestation. Exposure to prolonged moisture can lead to rotting and structural damage, compromising the integrity of the track. Similarly, insects such as termites can weaken the wood, increasing the risk of failure. Regular inspections and treatment are essential to mitigate these risks.

 2. Limited Load-Bearing Capacity

Compared to concrete or steel sleepers, wooden sleepers have a relatively lower load-bearing capacity. This limits their use in high-traffic and heavy-haul railway lines where heavier loads are expected. In such cases, alternative materials with higher strength and load-carrying capabilities are preferred.

 3. High Flammability

One significant disadvantage of wooden sleepers is their high flammability. Wood is a combustible material, making the track more susceptible to fire hazards. Proper fire prevention measures and regular monitoring are crucial to ensure the safety of railway operations and nearby areas.


2. Concrete sleepers

Concrete sleepers are sleepers made from concrete material with internal reinforcement. They are rectangular blocks that support the rails, providing stability and strength to the track system. Concrete sleepers are designed to distribute the load from passing trains and maintain the proper alignment and gauge of the tracks.

Types Of Sleepers Used In Railway

Advantages Of Concrete Sleepers

1. Long Life Span

Concrete sleepers have a remarkable longevity of 40 to 60 years, making them a durable and reliable choice for railway infrastructure.

2. Fewer Fittings Required

3. Compared to other sleeper materials like wood, concrete sleepers require fewer fittings during installation and maintenance, reducing complexity and cost.

4. Simple and Easy Gauge Adjustment

Adjusting the gauge, the distance between the rails, is straightforward with concrete sleepers. This flexibility allows for easier modifications and track alignment.

5. Enhanced Stability

Concrete sleepers offer superior lateral and longitudinal stability, ensuring track integrity even under heavy loads and high-speed trains.

6. Low Maintenance Cost

Due to their durability and resistance to decay, concrete sleepers have lower maintenance requirements, translating into cost savings for railway operators.


Disadvantages Of Concrete Sleepers

1. High Initial Cost

Concrete sleepers have a higher upfront cost compared to alternative sleeper materials. However, their long-term benefits and durability offset this initial expense.

2. Nil Scrap Value

Concrete sleepers have little to no scrap value, unlike materials like wood or metal. Disposal as construction waste is the typical practice at the end of their life span.

3. Metal sleepers.
The sleepers usually made of cast iron or steel are known as metal sleepers. Due to the growing shortage of timber to be used for wooden sleepers, their high maintenance, cast, and short life, metal sleepers are now being widely used.
Metal sleepers are two types:
a) Steel Sleepers
The sleepers made of steel are known as steel sleepers. Steel sleepers are extensively used with excellent results.
b) Cast Iron Sleepers
The sleepers made of cast iron are known as cast iron sleepers. These sleepers are extensively used in India than in any other country in the world.

Advantages Of Metal Sleepers

1. Longer Life Span

One significant advantage of metal sleepers is their extended lifespan. On average, metal sleepers can last anywhere from 35 to 50 years. This longevity is due to their durability and resistance to natural elements, such as moisture and temperature variations. Compared to other sleeper materials, metal sleepers offer a more cost-effective long-term solution.

2.Uniform in Strength and Durability

Metal sleepers provide a consistent level of strength and durability throughout their lifespan. Unlike wooden sleepers, which can weaken and decay over time, metal sleepers maintain their structural integrity, ensuring a stable and secure rail track.

3. Adjustability and Maintenance

The gauge of rail tracks refers to the distance between the two parallel rails. Metal sleepers allow for easy adjustment of the track gauge when needed. This adjustability is crucial for maintaining proper alignment and preventing derailments. Additionally, metal sleepers require minimal maintenance, reducing the need for frequent replacements or repairs.

4. Enhanced Stability

Metal sleepers contribute to both the lateral and longitudinal stability of the track. They provide a solid foundation for the rails, minimizing lateral movement and maintaining the track’s alignment. This stability is crucial for safe and efficient train operations.

5.High Scrap Value

At the end of their lifespan, metal sleepers have a high scrap value. They can be recycled or repurposed, minimizing waste and providing a sustainable solution for their disposal. The scrap value also adds an economic advantage to their usage.

 Disadvantages Of Metal Sleepers

1. Requirement for Additional Fittings

Metal sleepers often require additional fittings, such as clips or fasteners, to secure the rails firmly. These fittings add to the overall cost and complexity of installation and maintenance.

2. Susceptibility to Rust

One of the primary disadvantages of metal sleepers is their susceptibility to rust, especially in environments with high moisture or corrosive conditions. Rust can weaken the sleepers over time, compromising their structural integrity and necessitating more frequent inspections and maintenance..

3. Higher Damage Potential during Accidents 

In the event of accidents or derailments, metal sleepers can sustain more damage compared to other sleeper materials. This damage may require more extensive repairs or replacements, impacting the overall track maintenance costs and operational disruptions.


The Size of the Concrete sleepers

The Size of the sleeper is 2750 mm in length, 160 mm (top) & 200mm (bottom) in width at centre, 180mm in depth at centre and 295kg in weight.

Types Of Sleepers Used In Railway

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