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Track management
Symptoms of Mud Pumping

The symptoms of Mud Pumping are similar to those of life expired ballast, i.e. wet spots appearing at the surface of the ballast accompanied by rapid deteriorating of track geometry. However, from a track management perspective there are enormous differences. It is therefore essential to correctly identify where mud pumping occurs and minimize the length of treatment required.

Geometry Problems

Most railroads are monitored frequently to assess the roughness of the track and determine the rate of deterioration of the track geometry. This is primarily to schedule track surfacing operations, but the characteristics of the track roughness and the growth of localized faults in track alignments can be good indicators of where there are problems with the roadbed.

Alignment problems can be caused by mud pumping, and subsequently confirmed by geotechnical investigation, but for the most part there is no visual evidence at the ballast surface.

This indicates that mud pumping can cause poor track geometry long before there is visual evidence at the surface.

Is it Mud Pumping?

It is important to note that there are other potential failure mechanisms that can present similar problems in track geometry, such as embankment settlement. The site should be assessed for other obvious causes of poor track geometry before more costly investigations are pursued.

When slurry eventually appears at the surface it can be difficult to confirm the source of the fines. Poor drainage can result in overtopping and sediment settling onto the track causing top down contamination, which is clearly not a result of subgrade pumping.

However it can be less obvious when dealing with abraded ballast, wind blown silt or material dropped from open trucks. We must look for clues such as differences in colour between slurry and ballast.

Trial pits excavated at the side of the track can be revealing.

In most cases hand excavated trial holes would be adequate, provided that they are excavated to an appropriate depth (typically 3ft below top of rail) and are inspected and logged by a track/geotechnical engineer with relevant roadbed experience.

In areas with poor track drainage or high water table this may not be adequate as it is not possible to log materials underwater. Window-sampling in the roadbed is a possible option in this case. By assessing window sample cores it is easy to identify whether there is a good quality interlayer separating ballast and subgrade, or whether fines are rising through a poor quality interlayer from the underling clay subgrade even before symptoms are visible at the surface.

Preventing Mud Pumping, Ensuring Track Stability

Comprehensive Support Delivers Trackbed Performance

At GEOfabrics, we provide technical support to help you get the most out of TrackTex and address the cause of mud pumping. This ensures the stability and performance of your tracks. Our team of experts utilizes advanced techniques and technologies to deliver effective solutions tailored to your specific needs

Professional Development Hours

GEOfabrics continuing education sessions provide technical training on specifying and using TrackTex. These sessions contribute to PDH hours.

Trackbed Stabilization

Geosynthetics are widely used as a way to improve ballast performance under railways. GEOFabrics RK4 is a geocomposite comprising a stabilizing geogrid bonded to our RK1 needlepunched non-woven sep...

Symptoms of Mud Pumping

The symptoms of Mud Pumping are similar to those of life expired ballast, i.e. wet spots appearing at the surface of the ballast accompanied by rapid deteriorating of track geometry. However, from ...
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