Author: William Mainwaring

Modular composite switch sleepers – a sustainable solution that streamlines installation

The problem

Installing, maintaining and replacing switch sleepers that are longer than 16 feet for switches and crossings can be time consuming, expensive and pose increased health and safety risks. Sourcing quality switch sleepers over 16 ft is also becoming increasingly difficult. The situation is exacerbated when access and movement of heavy equipment is restricted.

The solution

Sicut’s composite plain line and switch sleepers – made from a unique recycled polymer composite developed by Rutgers University – have already proved an exciting technological innovation for all track types. Pandrol is the exclusive distributor in North America for Sicut® Composite Sleepers.

Recognizing the specific problem posed by long switch sleepers, Sicut®, with one of its European customers, set about developing a modular sleeper jointing system that would enable its composite switch sleepers to be joined at install, without any impact on long term performance.

The original sleeper jointing system concept was based on Sicut®’s and Rutgers’ experience of developing connections between its patented I-beams and marine piles used in road and rail bridges in the US and experience in Europe with the jointing of concrete switch sleepers. The side profile of the steel sleeper plate matched the depth of the Sicut® sleepers and the side walls were made parallel to transfer all loads effectively. The fixing hole arrangement was the same used for concrete sleepers, with the use of standard 1” screw spikes and spring washer.

On-site trials demonstrated how much easier, safer and quicker it was to install the Sicut® composite “sleeper-plated” switch sleepers than long one-piece timber sleepers. Pairs of switch sleepers up to 16 ft long, giving a continuous length of over 24 ft, have been installed and joined using the new sleeper plates.

The shorter, more manageable length of the switch sleepers allows them to be manoeuvred into position with ease. Up to 18 months after installation, there have been no signs of sleeper plate movement, loosening or deterioration. The extended 24 ft Sicut® composite switch sleepers continue to perform to expectations, with no deterioration.

The new Sicut® sleeper plate design brings an exciting versatility to the use of Sicut® composite switch sleepers across both passenger and heavy haul applications. Sicut® composite plain line and switch sleepers have already proved themselves to be excellent value, safe, tough and durable. They offer a lightweight solution and require significantly less maintenance, reducing transportation, handling and overhead costs. They resist the physical demands of rail traffic as well as environmental challenges; they are non-corrosive and immune to moisture ingress, undetected cracking and rusting.

Sicut’s composite plain line and switch sleepers are also a sustainable solution, made from a unique recyclable polymer composite developed by Rutgers University. They cut greenhouse gas emissions, keep waste plastic out of landfills and oceans, and reduce the industry’s need for timber, including tropical hardwood.

Delivering consistent performance over an extremely long life, they offer an outstanding return on investment. They have undergone more rigorous and demanding testing than any sleeper product, in both Europe and the USA.