As an important element in track, pre-stressed concrete railroad ties in the high-speed rail industry must meet the safety and performance specifications of high-speed trains. Systematic destructive and non-destructive evaluation of existing concrete ties can lead to a better understanding of the effect of prestressed concrete tie material design on performance and failure within their service life. It has been evident that environmental and climate conditions also have a significant impact on concrete railroad ties, causing various forms of deterioration such as abrasion and freeze-thaw damage. Understanding of the material characteristics that cause failure in different types of existing concrete railroad ties taken from different places is the main focus of this paper. Observing the current status and damages of railroad ties taken from track might give a correlation between the material characteristic and type of distress and cracking seen. Although it has been seen by previous works that effective factors such as air void system and material composition directly affect the performance of concrete ties such as freeze-thaw, material evaluation of existing ties after service life has not been addressed in previous publications. In this research, the authors have investigated the material characteristic such as aggregate and air-void system of existing pre-stressed concrete railroad ties taken from track. However, compressive and splitting tensile strength and fractured surface of samples cored from the ties were acquired. In order to obtain the strength of concrete materials of existing ties, six samples were cored from six different types of ties taken from tracks across the U.S., according to ASTM C42-16, and tested using ASTM C39 and ASTM C496 methods. However, the concrete air-void system (ASTM C457) was measured on saw-cut samples extracted from the ties to evaluate the influence air content and distribution on mechanical properties of the ties. Regarding the history and service life condition of the ties, it seems that material properties of the ties effectively alter the performance of the ties. Aggregate sources used at each location may have different properties such as texture, angularity, and mineralogy, contributing either propagation or resistance in splitting cracking in concrete. Furthermore, the polished surface of samples extracted from the ties show the uniformity and air void system in some ties which demonstrate their superiority in terms of resistance to freeze-thaw damage. Considering the results of this research, comprehensive evaluation of material characteristics might give a better view of existing concrete railroad ties situation, providing a worthwhile background for future tie design considerations.

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