What Are Railway Sleepers And Their Purpose?

A railway sleeper is traditionally a piece of wood that was laid beneath railway tracks, the intention being to provide strength and keep the track the correct gauge (width).

Although still widely used throughout the world for rail, more recently, railway sleepers have been used for both practical and decorative purposes. This is especially the case in garden settings, such as for building pathways, steps, and raised beds.

The three major types of sleepers are wood, steel, and concrete. There are various dimensions available to suit different purposes, whether that be for rail, landscaping gardens, construction, or otherwise.

In this blog post, we will discuss garden sleepers in further depth and provide an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

What Are Wooden Sleepers?

Sleepers were first made from wood, especially softwood, but it was not uncommon for hardwood to be used as well, such as oak, jarrah, and karri.

Advantages Of Wooden Sleepers:

The key benefit of this type is the ease of manufacture and handling for gardeners and homeowners.

Wooden sleepers provide inherent elastic strength and are highly durable, requiring little maintenance. This is especially true in the case of high-quality timber. Wooden sleepers are also flexible and adaptable.

Disadvantages Of Wooden Sleepers:

The drawbacks of wooden garden sleepers is that they are not reusable and potentially expensive, depending on the limitations of the wood resource.

Wooden sleepers are divided into three categories: Longitudinal Sleepers, Horizontal Sleepers, and Short Sleepers.

Other categorisations include Ordinary Wooden Sleepers, Bridge Sleepers, and Pillow Sleepers.

What Are Steel Sleepers?

Steel sleepers are a more modern incarnation of railway sleeper and designed for handling heavy loads, usually on freight railway tracks and metre-gauge railways. But they can also be used in other settings, including construction.

Weighing the same as timber, steel sleepers can replace wood sleepers and be used on a ballasted bridge, providing a more durable and stronger solution without increasing bridge load.

Advantages Of Steel Sleepers:

The key advantage of steel sleepers is that they are easy to manufacture and install. They also handle more weight than wooden sleepers.

Disadvantages Of Steel Sleepers:

There are some disadvantages, however. Steel is sensitive to chemical spillages and harder to maintain. Steel also has low transverse resistance.

What Are Concrete Sleepers?

Concrete sleepers are typically manufactured from prestressed concrete and provide better lateral stability and elastic support for rail. But they can equally be used for other purposes, such as for building retaining walls.

Advantages Of Concrete Sleepers:

The key benefit of concrete railway sleepers is that they are more readily available and affordable. They also require less maintenance and have a longer service life.

Disadvantages Of Concrete Sleepers:

But there are drawbacks, such as being difficult to handle due to their weight, and more problematic to maintain longitudinal level due to higher inertia moment and lower elasticity.

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