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Why are there crushed stones alongside rail tracks?

(This Question got more than 1 million views in Quora)

While seeing this question, every one of us feels that yes, why? Am also the one who thinks about it. Sometimes very small things have huge valuable reasons, its one among them. Let’s see what are the discussions went on it and how we got valuable answers.

Best Answers:

Answered by: Dave Larsen, IBEW RSE Electrician, songwriter, nerd, on Sep 18, 2013 and this answer got 48.9k Views

I found his answer is short and crisp.

“I’m not an engineer (either kind) but I believe that the gravel is called road-bed.

I would guess that gravel roadbed is used for a few reasons.

As the train wheels roll along, the tracks flex slightly. The gravel helps distribute the constantly shifting point loads where monolithic support would tend to break up over time.

The gravel ensures that the substrate under the tracks is adequately drained, which is critical for the tracks, especially when there is exposure to a freeze-thaw cycle

Gravel maintains support of and the distance between the cross ties

Gravel is in a sense like a flexible stone. It is for practical purposes waterproof and can withstand heavy compression. It doesn’t rot.

Any engineers out there who can tell me if I’m on the right track?

Yes, he is correct and the answer for it is clearly given here,

Answered by:​ Shah Jayesh, B.tech from Dharmsinh Desai University, Nadiad, Updated on Nov 1, 2017 and this answer got 26.8k Views​

Track ballast- the stones that you see lying close to the railway tracks are collectively called track ballast. Track ballast is packed between the sleepers, in the areas below, and on the sides of railway tracks

Sleepers- A railway sleeper is rectangular support that is usually kept perpendicular to the tracks. Means in the middle which is of concrete mainly (wood was mainly used in Britishers rule) to hold the rails and properly spaced.


An important function is to absorb the vibrations and protect rigid structures by doing so.

They provide support to the tracks. As sharp and edges stones are used (because when train moves so that they didn’t move on each other) so that they maintain the space between the tracks.

In preventing the growth of vegetation otherwise maintenance will cost much.

It drains out any water that may be around the tracks that water doesn’t stay

Near the tracks and compromise the support provided by of the ground below.

Interesting thing:

EPDM – Ethylene Propylene diene monomer is a rubber which is used in rail tracks to decrease the amount of vibration produced by trains because of its high resistance to heat, water and other mechanical strains

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