Traveling by train is an amazing experience in itself. You get to witness the panaromic views of nature, sprawling fields, cities teeming with people, or endless stretches of land with no sign of any life whatsoever.
One more thing that you almost always see throughout your train-journey are those small stones lying alongside the track on which your train races?
Have you ever given any thought as to why there are almost always stones alongside a railway track?
To start with, the stones that you see lying close to the railway tracks are collectively called track ballast. It basically forms the trackbed on which the railway sleepers are kept.
What are railway sleepers?
A railway sleeper is a rectangular support that is usually kept perpendicular to the tracks. Sleepers are known by a few other names too, like a railroad tie or a crosstie. These are usually made of wood or pre-stressed concrete. The function of railway sleepers are to hold the rails upright and properly spaced.
Why Specifically These Stones?
The main purpose of the stones – providing support to the railway tracks, making sure they don’t move when a fast train is going over it.
It’s not like the construction crews put just any stone they find around the tracks. That wouldn’t do the trick. For instance, if you put smooth, round pebbles in the ballast, then they might roll or slide over each other when a train passes over the tracks. In order to guarantee that the stones stay in place, they use sharp and edged stones in the ballast.
What else do these rocks
do on tracks?
The track ballast serves a number of purposes;
Prevent plants from growing around the tracks (making ground beneath the tracks weaker).
It seals out any water that may be around the tracks to actually reach the tracks on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean the ballast completely insulates the tracks from water, which would be impossible, but it does facilitate water drainage