Types Of Sleepers Used In Railway

What Is Railway Sleeper?

Railway sleepers are an important railway component laid between two rail tracks to keep the correct space of gauge. Generally, these sleepers rest on the ballast and distribute the load to the ballast. Railway sleepers are also called railroad ties, railway ties, or crossties.

There are various types of sleepers used in railways, according to their suitability, availability, economy, and design. Based on the material used in the construction, the railway sleepers can be classified into the following three categories:

  1. Wooden sleepers.
  2. Metal sleepers.
  3. Concrete sleepers.

Types Of Railway Sleepers

1. Wooden Sleepers

The sleepers made of timber are known as wooden sleepers. These sleepers were widely used as the best type of sleepers as they fulfilled all the requirements of an ideal sleeper. But these are now backdated and not used widely.

types of sleepers
Wooden Sleepers

Advantages Of Wooden Sleepers


  • Timber is easily available.
  • The initial cost of wooden sleeper is low.
  • They require few fastenings which are also simple to design.
  • These sleepers are easy to handle.
  • Suitable for all types of ballast.
  • They can be used with every section of rails and for any gauge of track.
  • The extent of damage during accidents is less.
  • Best for track circuiting.
  • Easy renewal of the track.

Disadvantages Of Wooden Sleepers

  • The life span of wooden sleepers is minimum (12 to 15 years) compared to other types of sleepers.
  • They are liable to decay, attack of white ants, wear, spike killing, cracking, splitting, rail cutting, etc.
  • The lateral and longitudinal rigidity of the track is less as the connections between the rails and the sleepers are not so strong.
  • Difficulty in maintaining gauge of the track.
  • High maintenance cost.
  • Low scrap value.

2. Metal Sleepers

The sleepers usually made of cast iron or steel are known as metal sleepers. Due to the growing shortage of timber to be used for wooden sleepers, their high maintenance, cast, and short life, metal sleepers are now being widely used.

Metal sleepers are two types:

a) Steel Sleepers: The sleepers made of steel are known as steel sleepers. Steel sleepers are extensively used with excellent results.

Types of steel sleepers:

  • Key type steel sleepers
  • Clip and bolt type steel sleepers.
Metal Sleepers

b) Cast Iron Sleepers: The sleepers made of cast iron are known as cast iron sleepers. These sleepers are extensively used in India than in any other country in the world.

Types of cast iron sleepers:

  • Pot or bowl sleeper.
  • Plate sleeper.
  • Box sleeper.
  • CST-9 sleeper.
  • Duplex sleeper.

Advantages Of Metal Sleepers

  • Longer life span (35 to 50 years).
  • Uniform in strength and durability.
  • Gauge can be easily adjusted and maintained.
  • The lateral and longitudinal stability of the track is more.
  • Renewal is not frequent.
  • High scrap value.

Disadvantages Of Metal Sleepers

  • They require more fittings.
  • Metal is liable to rust.
  • Require more quantity of ballast.
  • These sleepers are not suitable for bridges, level crossing, etc.
  • More damage during accident.

3. Concrete Sleepers

The sleepers made of reinforced or prestressed cement concrete are known as concrete sleepers.

Types of concrete sleepers:

a) RCC sleepers: The concrete sleepers for railway made of reinforced cement concrete are called RCC sleepers.

Concrete Sleepers

RCC sleepers are the following two types:

  • Mono-black sleeper,
  • Two back sleeper.

b) Prestressed Concrete Sleepers: The concrete sleepers for railway made of prestressed cement concrete are also known as prestressed concrete sleepers.

Advantages Of Concrete Sleepers

  • Long life span ( 40 to 60 years).
  • Require fewer fittings.
  • Adjustment of gauge is simple and easy.
  • They provide strong connections between rail and sleeper.
  • The lateral and longitudinal stability of the track is more.
  • Track circuiting is possible.
  • More durable and not liable to decay.
  • Less creep in the track.
  • They can withstand the stresses induced by fast-moving and heavy traffic.
  • Low maintenance cost.

Disadvantages Of Concrete Sleepers

  • The initial cost is high.
  • Liable to break under rough handling or due to improper design.
  • Renewal is little bit difficult.
  • The scrap value is nil.
Also Read

System Of Railway

Types Of Roads

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3 thoughts on “Types Of Sleepers Used In Railway”

  1. There’s another new type of railway sleeper made of composite plastic wic is verymuch Eco-friendly manufactured using waste plastic

  2. Wooden sleepers may be cheap by monetary aspect. But they will be too expensive when considered about the DEFORESTATION and cutting down huge trees from well grown forest. How about saving environmental balance ? We have already lost more than 40% of the forest only for manufacturing these sleepers. If it is made out of cast Iron or steel sheets they can be recycled to make new sleepers. Every system has advantages and disadvantages on it’s own way.


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