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5 Reasons Why Ballast Is Needed for Railroad Construction

You could be forgiven for thinking that railroad tracks are quite a simple device. They certainly look simple. There is a lot of gravel on the ground and the horizontal ties are placed across it, with the metal tracks on top. Voila, you have a railway. Yet, is it really that straightforward? Well, the truth is a little more complex and construction teams need just the right materials to make a railroad work safely.

One of the most important materials is ballast aggregate. This is the gravel that forms the secure, sturdy foundation for the track itself. High quality ballast in Cambridge is sought after by construction crews, because it is a unique product. It is great for drainage, raising, and grounding due to its controlled density. In fact, without aggregate ballast, the railroads, as they exist now, would not be operational, so it is a vital aspect of construction design.

Keep reading to find out why ballast is such an important part of reliable railroad construction.


The upper surface of the railroad bed is all that most people ever see, but it actually extends much further than this. It stretches several inches into the ground and then the dugout bed is filled with heavy ballast. It serves to hold the entire track down and anchor it into the ground, so that none of the components can jump or move around. This is very important for the safety of the trains that travel on the track.


As a railroad is being built, track ballast is used to fill the empty space opened up for the track bed. However, once the empty hole has been filled, the construction teams keep pouring until the ballast material has actively raised the track above ground level. The extra height is needed for drainage purposes and it makes sure that the ballast doesn’t wear or wash away too easily after the track is opened for use.


Speaking of drainage; the slightly raised ballast material is really effective at encouraging groundwater to move downhill, away from the tracks. With high quality aggregate in Cambridge, efficient drainage is guaranteed. The individual stones are all different sizes and they don’t fit together seamlessly. This means that water can travel between them and dissipate safely, without the risk of flooding.

Fewer Weeds/Vegetation

As long expanses of railroad track run through rural spaces, with few houses and settlements, regular, targeted maintenance is not really an option. Fortunately, aggregate ballast is loose enough to allow for good drainage, but tight enough to prevent weeds from creeping in. This means that maintenance crews don’t have to spend all of their time tirelessly clearing long stretches of the track.

Makes Maintenance Easy

For all of the reasons discussed, ballast is a great choice for railroad construction. It keeps tracks sturdy, safe, and secure. It delays the proliferation of weeds and creeping vegetation. It ensures that groundwater doesn’t turn into flooding. Plus, it is easy to source and it can be bought, in large quantities, at affordable rates. Ballast is the aggregate of choice for all kinds of different construction needs, not just the railroads.

To find out more about the benefits and uses of ballast, contact our aggregates suppliers or call 01353 649770 to speak to a representative and request a cost estimate for your next construction project.



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