|New wooden railway ties await installation.|
|Note the spike lift, lower left, and rotted tie, right.|
I have a retaining wall behind my home that was made from railway ties. The wall is rotting and in need of replacement. From my personal experience with railway ties, I figure these big chunks of creosote-saturated lumber do not last all that long. My years of working for a newspaper tell me that trains occasionally jump the track. Derailments are far from unknown. This is 2011, not 1911, isn't there a better way of anchoring track?
Well it turns out there well might be. For more than 30 years, Europe and Japan have been using concrete slab track instead of traditional ties and ballast. This type of track works well for high-speed passenger trains, but the challenge has been to design and construct a track system providing the required ride quality for high-speed passenger trains with the strength to withstand 39-ton axle loads at freight train speeds.
The Portland Cement Association is leading research into the problem and slab track installations are being tested in the United States.