Reinforced Polymer for Railway Wood Ties

Creosote-treated wood ties used by the US railroad industry are considered environmentally hazardous due to the potential of leaching harsh chemicals into the ground. The service life of wood ties has been diminishing due to depletion of high quality wood, as well as due to increased axle loads because of higher rail car speeds and frequencies. These reductions in service life can lead to potential safety hazards like derailments at higher speeds. Developing an effective recycling or remanufacturing methodology for creosote-treated wood ties will help with these safety concerns, as well as with environmental concerns of wood depletion and creosote-induced contamination. IAI and collaborators will develop a composite wood tie design, in which a used or new wood tie core will be encased with Basalt Fiber Reinforced Polymer (BFRP). This technique is expected to enhance and restore the strength, stiffness and load-bearing capacity of wood ties, elongate their service life against adverse environmental conditions, and utilize the remaining serviceability of the wood ties used as a core. Comprehensive numerical modeling will be used to optimize BFRP reinforced wood tie designs, and lab experiments based on industrial standards will be used to demonstrate the structural performance and feasibility of the product. The design and manufacturing process will be further improved and field tested in later stages. The enhanced strength, stiffness and durability of the BFRP reinforced wood tie design make it very commercially attractive for several field applications.