Author: William Mainwaring

Modular composite switch ties – a sustainable solution that streamlines installation

The problem

Installing, maintaining and replacing switch ties 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 ties 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 ties – 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 Ties.

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

The original tie 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 ties. The side profile of the steel tie plate matched the depth of the Sicut® ties and the side walls were made parallel to transfer all loads effectively. The fixing hole arrangement was the same used for concrete ties, 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 “tie-plated” switch ties than long one-piece timber ties. Pairs of switch ties up to 16 ft long, giving a continuous length of over 24 ft, have been installed and joined using the new tie plates.

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

The new Sicut® tie plate design brings an exciting versatility to the use of Sicut® composite switch ties across both passenger and heavy haul applications. Sicut® composite plain line and switch ties 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 ties 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 tie product, in both Europe and the USA.