The ballast bed fulfils important functions as the binding element between sleepers and substructure. Fouling increases over the years for various reasons. When the necessary good functioning is no longer assured, ballast bed cleaning must be performed.
This work can be performed highly efficiently using ballast bed cleaning machines made by Plasser & Theurer. Thanks to the high working speed of the machines, even short intervals between trains can be utilised. High cleaning quality and the re-use of large quantities of ballast, which is a very costly resource, ensure cost-effectiveness.
The ballast bed distributes the loads of the trains uniformly onto the track substructure and assures a firm, unshifting position of the sleepers. To withstand these dynamic impacts the ballast bed has to be very elastic. The good function depends on the depth of the ballast bed, the size of the ballast stones and the degree of fouling.
Fouling occurs under normal operational loads. This causes the edges of the ballast stones to break off, settlement of the stones and friction processes. Other causes of fouling are material rising up from the subsoil and external environmental influences. Overall, this causes an increase in the proportion of fines which reduces the elasticity of the track, the water permeability and the durability of the track geometry. As a consequence, there will be irregular settlement of the track which tamping can compensate only for short periods. From a certain point in time it will be more economical to clean the entire ballast bed.
Using ballast bed cleaning machines, the ballast can be cleaned without dismantling the track. The central features are powerful scraper chains that excavate the fouled ballast and at the same time prepare the foundation for the new ballast. The ballast is cleaned in large oscillating screens with several screening levels which ensures optimum quality. The clean ballast is returned to the track directly behind the excavating chain. The residue from the cleaning is passed into a spoil conveyor and transport system.