In a world where travelling by road is becoming more and more difficult due to the congestion caused by too many cars and never-ending roadworks, the train has become the preferred option of many travellers. Whether that is for their daily commute or away day train travel, trains are becoming more popular than ever. Let’s face it, why get stressed in traffic jams when you could just sit back and relax and in the words of the famous advert ‘let the train take the strain’. Now how many of us when taking our train journey have even given a second glance to the stones that adorn the track in between the rails. However, these stones are a vital part of any rail system, and without them, train travel would be impossible. So for the uninitiated among you, we thought we’d take a look at what this crushed stone is called, and what function it performs.

What Exactly is Railway Track Ballast

So, as a starting point, we thought we would give these stones their correct title which is Railway Ballast. The crushed stone that is track ballast makes up the bed on which the railway sleepers are laid. Besides being packed between the sleepers, the ballast is also placed below and to the sides of the rails. The reason for this is to give support to the sleepers to make sure they remain both upright and appropriately spaced.

Why Use This Particular Type of Stone

What is the reason for using this specific type of stone when it comes to railway tracks? To most people, stone is stone no matter what it looks like. However, there are only certain types of stone that are suitable for use on railway tracks. To give you an example of this smooth round pebble type stones are not suitable, as there is a possibility that they will slide around when the train passes over them making the track unstable. As you can imagine a solid base is essential when it comes to train tracks, and as such ensuring the stone used is fit for purpose is vital. The ideal type of stone for track ballast is sharp and edged as they are best suited to staying in place. This type of stone binds together naturally providing a track with the stability it needs.

How Does Track Ballast Work

Track Ballast has several different functions, the most important of which is to ensure the track remains in place no matter what size of train rolls over it. Track Ballast also plays an important part in keeping plant growth on tracks under control. Excessive plant growth is likely to destabilise the tracks putting the safety of the rail system at risk. Track Ballast also acts as a barrier against water by improving the drainage, ensuring there is no possibility of flooding which will compromise the stability of the ground and the effectiveness of the tracks.

Track Ballast Helps Reduce Vibrations

When trains pass through or nearby built-up areas the vibrations caused can pose a serious threat to buildings situated in close proximity. Another problem with hi-speed trains is that they cause a serious amount of noise which can be a problem to people living or working close by. To minimise vibrations, a relatively simple clamping method using a dynamic vibration absorber is used. This will result in a significant reduction in vibrations which helps keep noise levels to a minimum making it better for residents living in the vicinity.

Having read this, we understand you won’t be an expert on railway track maintenance, but we hope the information we have provided will at least give you a basic understanding of the importance of track ballast.