railroad track ballast concept image.

What Are the Functions of a Railroad Track Ballast?

Have you ever wondered why railroad tracks have layers of crushed rocks underneath them?
The use of this crushed rock is more than a mere coincidence–it’s called a railroad track ballast, or more commonly known as a “ballast”. It plays an important role in keeping railroad tracks stable and functional. If you’re curious about the purpose of railroad track ballast and how it works, keep reading. Here’s everything you need to know about railroad ballast:

What is a railroad track ballast?

Generally speaking, ballast is a term for something that creates balance or stability. In fact, the
term was originally used to describe stones that helped to balance ships. Like ballast for ships,
railroad ballast is used to create stable conditions for the railroad. Railroad ballast is usually
composed of crushed stone, although other materials, such as burned clay, have also been
used in the past. It is used to form the track bed underneath railroad ties.

What Role Does Ballast Play in Railroad Track

Ballast has been an essential aspect of railroad construction for hundreds of years. While
ballast might seem like a simple or minor detail in the construction process, in reality, it serves
several essential purposes to help keep railroad tracks stable. Here’s a brief look at the roles
that ballast plays:

Helps Maintain the Position of the Tracks

Not only are trains incredibly heavy, they’re also extremely fast-moving. Without proper support,
it would be impossible for the railroad tracks to stay in place. One of the purposes of using
railroad ballast is to help keep the tracks in place as the train is passing through.

Keeps Vegetation at Bay

Another benefit of using ballast in railroad construction is that it serves as a barrier to prevent
weeds and other vegetation from growing freely on the railroad tracks. While these small plants
may seem harmless, they can actually undermine the ground beneath the railroad tracks,
making it softer, weaker, and ultimately less able to support the railroad tracks.

Protects the Tracks From Water

Railroad ballast also helps prevent water from settling around the railroad tracks and potentially
posing a danger to the train’s stability. The ballast creates an effective drainage system,
allowing the water to cycle through and protecting the integrity of the railroad tracks themselves.

Contact R&S Track For Your Railway Maintenance
Needs Today

Ballast is an extremely important aspect of railroad construction. Not only does it keep the
railroad tracks secure, it protects the tracks from water, plant overgrowth, and other factors that
could affect the viability of the railroad tracks.
When it comes to truck maintenance and railway construction, there are few names as trusted
in the business as R&S Track. With 35 years of experience serving the Midwest, R&S Track has
become a leader in the industry that you can rely on to get the job done right. From consulting
services to track inspections, maintenance, track rehabilitation, project design, derail services,
and more, we’re ready to help. Reach out to us today to book a consultation or to learn more
about our services.