Newmark Structural Engineering Laboratory

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

College of Engineering

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Recent and Past Projects
NSEL Reports Series

Experimental Study of the Role of Moisture in Concrete Tie Rail Seat Deterioration

by Prof. Riley Edwards, Prof. David Lange, Prof. Chris Barkan, and John Zeman


The most critical problem with concrete ties is the concrete wear known as rail seat deterioration, and the mechanisms of this problem are not well understood.  This research project is experimentally studying two potential mechanisms that relate to hydraulic action when water fills the space between the concrete rail seat and the elastomeric tie pad that supports the rail.  The hydraulic action during cyclic loading may lead to cavitation erosion on the concrete surface or hydraulic pressure cracking within the concrete.  This test setup loads a saturated concrete block with railroad-magnitude loads while the water pressure is measured using a pressure transducer mounted within the concrete block.  The results of these tests will provide evidence as to whether or not these mechanisms could feasibly contribute to rail seat deterioration and, if so, how they might be effectively mitigated.

This project is funded by the Association of American Railroads as part of the Technology Scanning Program.

If you would like to know more about our research, please contact John Zeman ( or Riley Edwards (  You can also visit our Railroad Engineering Program site to learn more about railroad research and activities at the University of Illinois:
  uiuc   The NSEL website is administrated by John Szkolka and Tim Prunkard | Contact NSEL | CEE Home | NEES