With the first major installation in North American railroads during the 1960’s, concrete ties were believed to last longer than timber ties and have the potential for reduced life cycle costs. However, their characteristic response to initial pretension release as well as dynamic track loading is not well understood. In North America, concrete ties have been found vulnerable to rail seat deterioration (RSD), but the mechanisms contributing to RSD failures are not well understood. To improve such understanding, a comprehensive computational study of the tie response to dynamic track forces is needed. This paper presents an initial research effort in this direction that models concrete crossties as heterogeneous media in three-dimensional finite element analyses, i.e., the prestressing strands, concrete matrix and the strand-concrete interfaces are represented explicitly. Damaged plasticity models are employed for the concrete material, and linear elastic bond-slip relations, followed by damage initiation and evolution, are adopted for the strand-concrete interfaces. Further, the ballast is modeled with an Extended Drucker-Prager plasticity model, and the subgrade is modeled as an elastic half space. All material parameters are obtained from the open literature. Currently the rail fastening systems are not included in modeling. Two loading scenarios are simulated: pretension release and direct rail seat loading. The modeling approach is able to predict the deformed tie shape, initial interface deterioration, the compressive stress state in concrete and residual tension in the strands upon pretension release. The transfer lengths of the prestressing strands can be readily calculated from the analysis results. Further predicted are the rail seat force-displacement characteristics and the potential failure mode of a concrete crosstie under direct rail seat loading. The responses of two railroad concrete crossties with 8-strand and 24-wire reinforcements, respectively, are studied using the presented modeling framework. The analyses indicate a potential failure mode of tensile cracking at the tie base below the rail seats. The results show that the 24-wire tie is better able to retain the pretension in the reinforcements than the 8-strand tie, resulting in slightly stronger rail seat force-displacement characteristics and higher failure load. The effects of the load application method and the subgrade modeling on the predicted tie response are further studied.

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