Concrete ties have become a promising alternative to timber ties for freight lines with increased curvature, high annual traffic, and large axle loads. They are also widely adopted in passenger lines. High strength (HS) concrete is the material of choice in the fabrication of prestressed concrete railroad ties. The higher strength of the concrete is directly related to higher values of the Elastic Modulus, thus increasing the rigidity of the material. The combination of increased strength, rigidity, and the material brittleness may lead to the development of high amplitude stresses with high gradients, which appears to be a common underlying cause of premature cracking and deterioration observed in some concrete ties. Realizing the current issues associated with the performance of concrete ties and recalling the findings of an almost fifteen-year-old research conducted at the University of South Carolina (USC), a hypothesis was formulated that there is a potential benefit in introducing weathered granite aggregates into mix designs for railroad concrete ties. A high strength, yet lower rigidity, concrete will reduce the amplitude of the stress field and equally important, will regularize the stress field providing for a smoother load distribution that will diffuse stress concentrations. Consequently, the High Strength Reduced Modulus (HSRM) concrete improves the cracking resistance and fatigue performance, thus extending the life of the tie. A comprehensive research program has been conducted at USC to identify the benefits of using HSRM in concrete ties. The research is based on experimental investigations and computer simulations at the material, component and structural member levels. This work presents the details of the computer simulation studies that pertain to center binding conditions. Three-dimensional nonlinear Finite Element (FE) models have been developed for the HSRM and the “Standard” concrete ties. Nonlinear material models based on damaged plasticity are implemented. The concrete-steel bond interface is also modeled and discussed. Validation of these models is conducted through comparisons with laboratory testing of prestressed concrete prisms, and it has shown excellent accuracy. Subsequently, a study related to center binding conditions in a tangent track have been conducted. These studies showed that the HSRM concrete tie outperformed the Standard concrete tie in these benchmark tests by (i) showing smoother stress distribution, (ii) delaying the initiation of cracks and (iii) failing at higher ultimate loads. The analysis results are discussed and future recommendations presented.

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