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Construction of new railway lines, where usage of B.C. soil, is unavoidable as local construction material---Mitigating maintenance problems. Bhavesh Pande, Dy Chief Engineer/TM/ SEC Rly Synopsis: The alignment of any railway line project is dictated by the regional demands & topography and not by the availability of suitable construction materials Often project alignment passes through large tract of BC soil which is not a good construction material. However the time and cost factors make it inevitable to use BC soil which gives problem in perpetuity. Till now, several methods have been tried out to stabilize embankments made up of BC soil by scientists and Engineers without any favourable results. The paper discusses an alternative which should provide stability to BC soil embankments.

1. It is nearly two decade ago that it was decided not to build embankments using any more of
clayey soil. This is, however, more emphatic on papers than in practice. Engineers still continue to use clay in construction work as a locally available material which reduces the cost of construction and accelerates the progress. However assets created out of clayey soil give trouble in perpetuity. RDSO, after conducting extensive studies and based on experience has issued directives not to use BC soil in railway embankments. However regions like Maharashtra, Western UP, Parts of AP, Gujarat and TN do have large tracts of BC soil. In these regions using BC soil makes a project in immediate future economically viable. Surprisingly when there is so much of noise for discarding BC soil, alignments are never finalized on the consideration of availability of good construction materials. 2. Clayey soil has many useful properties. This is one of the highly fertile soils. Cash crops such as paddy, sugarcane, cotton, wheat etc are harvested by farmers world over from fields having clayey soil, in abundance. It is not difficult to identify clayey soil. If on a rainy day or immediately after watering the garden one walks over lawn and the garden soil sticks to your shoes, it is confirmation of presence of clayey soil. The term Soil has various connotations depending upon the professional field in which it is considered. For Agriculturist, Geologist and Engineer it has entirely different meanings. The soil contains widely different materials like boulders, sand, gravels, clays and salts, the size of which varies from a few microns to large size boulders.

3. For Engineers, soil is a complex material produced by weathering of solid rocks.

Cohesionless solids are formed due to physical disintegration of rock materials. Chemical weathering may be caused as a result of oxidation, hydration, carbonation etc. Clay minerals are produced by chemical weathering. The clayey soil with rich contents of clay particles is unsuitable for engineering purposes. Especially, for construction of railway lines, highways and run ways, this is a bane. Similar is the case in housing industry where constructed units are rendered unsuitable for dwelling as the structures get cracked all over.

However, many projects are viable only when clay is used as locally available construction material to reduce construction cost. 4. Characteristics of clay

4.1 Soil structure is usually defined as the arrangement of aggregation of soil particles in soil
mass. This covers, in larger sense, mineralogical composition, electrical properties, shape, Ph value, orientation of solid particles and the nature and properties of soil water and its ionic composition. The soil is also classified as non-clayey and clayey. Those minerals which have low surface area and do not contribute adhesion are referred to as non-clay minerals. The crystalline materials whose surface activity is such that they develop cohesion and plasticity are called minerals. About 15 minerals are classed as clay minerals which belong to four main groups. Chemically the clay minerals are classed as silicate of Aluminum and/or iron and magnesium. Most of the clay minerals have sheet or layered structure. Some clays have elongated tubular structures.

4.2 Clay particles behave like colloids. A colloid is a particle whose specific surface (surface
area per unit mass or volume) is so high that its behaviour is controlled by surface energy rather than its mass energy. Nearly all clay minerals are colloidal.

4.3 The nature of surface bonding forces is not yet completely understood in clay materials.
Mainly there are two types of bonds in soil mass i.e. i) Primary valence bond, and ii) Secondary valence bond. The primary valence bonds in cohesive soil are seldom broken and hence these are of little concern to Engineers.

4.4 Experiments have shown that a soil colloid suspended in water carries always a net
negative charge. The acidic nature of soil minerals suggest that hydrogen atoms come off in the presence of water and thereby give the mineral a net negative charge. Since the net electrical charge of the entire soil water suspension must be zero, the charge on each colloid must be neutralized by ions from the water. These ions are called counter ions or exchangeable ions.

4.5 If there were no thermal activity possessed by these ions, and if there were no attraction
exerted on them by other ions and colloids, these counter ions would swarm to the surface of the particle to neutralize the surface charge of the particles. Thus their position is compromised between the particle charge which pulls them in and their thermal activities plus the attraction by other bodies which keep them away. The counter ions thus constitute the diffuse double layer of the colloids; the surface charge of the colloid is the other layer of the double layer.

3 4.6 The force-field that develops between charged soil particles; the surrounding water and the
associated ions have a controlling effect on soil properties. These colloids have attractive as well as repulsive forces acting on them. Repulsive forces are due to: i) particle charge and ii) cat ion - cat ion repulsion. Since the particles are similarly charged, they repel each other when they approach each other close enough for double layer to overlap.

5 Clay, consisting of very fine particles or colloids, may have two types of structures; flocculated
or dispersed. Flocculated structure of clay particles is formed when there are edge to edge contacts between the platelets. The clay having flocculent structure has a high voids ratio. When pressure is applied, the particles take shape along the contact surfaces to position of greater stability and produce denser arrangement. Similarly, consolidation tends to orient particles into the dispersed arrangement. Pressure application forces some of the double layer water out from between the flakes until they are separated by water with high viscosity to support the applied load. Montmorillonite crystal under some condition may be only 10AO (1Ao = 10-7 mm) thick with 10AO of absorbed water next to the surface, and 200AO double layer water. Montmorillonite having a dispersed structure under this condition is 97% water and 3% solids by volume.

6.0 Engineering properties

6.1 Depending upon the relative proportion of coarse grained and fine grained particles, two types of composite soil may be possible: i) Course grained skeleton and ii) Cohesive matrix. In coarse grained soil the void space of the single grained structure is filled with clay particles. The bulky particles making continuous contact form an incompressible mass. In cohesive matrix the clay content is more such that the bulky particles are unable to make particle to particle contact. And hence the clay constitutes the load bearing member and the soil formation is relatively more compressible. 6.2 As mentioned earlier, about 15 minerals are classed as clay minerals and these belong to four main groups. Out of these four groups only montmorillonite is of concern to engineers since other groups are stable. Montmorillonite is most common of all clay minerals in expansive soil. The mineral is made up of sheet like units. The thickness of each unit is 10A O and the dimensions in other two directions are indefinite. The basic 10AO thick units are stacked one above the other like the leaves of book. There is very weak bonding between the successive sheets and water may enter between the sheets resulting into heavy swelling. Each thin platelet has power to attract to each flat surface as layer of absorbed water approximately 10AO thick, and 200AO diffuse layer thus separating platelets by a distance of 420AO under pressure. Soil containing montmorillonite mineral exhibits high shrinkage and swelling, on wetting and drying. 6.3 In any soil mass the minute pores of soil serve as capillary tubes through which the soil moisture rises above the ground water level. The highest capillary rise above ground water depends upon the diameter of the capillary tube and the volume of surface tension. 6.4 The average value of height of capillary rise in soils is as given in table: Soil Fraction (mm) 2 to 1 1 to 0.5 0.5 to 0.25 0.25 to 0.05 0.05 to 0.005 Capillary height (cm) 2 to 10 10 to 15 15 to 30 30 to 100 100 to 1000

Fine gravel Coarse sand Medium sand Fine sand Salt

Clay 0.005 to 0.0005 1000 to 3000

6.5 When a compressive load is applied to soil mass, a decrease in its volume takes place. The decrease in the volume of soil mass under stress is known as compression. When a stress is applied to solid crystalline material, the elastic deformation of solid particles is negligibly small compared to the deformation caused by change in relative position of the discreet particles and the resulting decrease in the volume of voids. 6.6 In a saturated soil mass having its void filled with incompressible water, decrease in volume or compression take place when water is expelled from voids. Such a compression from long term static load and the consequent escape of water is termed as consolidation. The opposite process is called swelling which involves an increase in water content due to an increase in the volume of voids. Compaction of soil also takes place by expulsion of air from voids under short duration through moving or vibratory loads. Such a compression is called compaction. 6.7 The compressibility of clay might be caused by two factors: i) The expulsion of double layer water from between the grains; ii) Slipping of particles to new position of greater density. The permeability of clay being small, time is an important factor, in the consolidation of clays. 6.8 Clay soils used in Railway embankments is unsuitable from two reason; one, there is heavy expansion and shrinkage in its volume and two, its bearing capacity is abnormally changed with change in wet condition. These characteristics cause disturbance to alignment and cross-levels of track. Also, the stone ballast keeps penetrating into it. The soil mass and track start sinking which is nothing but formation failure of embankment which threatens the safety of trains. Therefore the following types of materials should be considered unsuitable for embankment construction and should not be used: i) materials from swamp and marshes; ii) clay having LL exceeding 70 and PI exceeding 45. iii)expansive clay with free swelling index exceeding 50%; expansive clay/BC soil should not be used for sub grade construction. 7.0 Methods adopted on IR. 7.1. Engineers on IR have rightly realized that most of the problems is contributed by change in wet condition. To mitigate the problem, geo-textile layer, moorum blanketing using rail cluster, CC cribs, Aluminium girder; sand blanketing, construction of surface cross drainage on top, lime slurry piling etc have been tried out and are still being tried. What I experimented nearly 27 years ago as AEN is still being continued without favourable results. Nowhere engineers are successful in this context. In their scheme of things, perhaps, it is the rain water falling on embankment which

is the cause of trouble as it may change wet conditions. But it could be anybodys guess that the falling rain water flows down the slopes faster since permeability of clay is very poor. Thus weather is not likely to change the soil moisture conditions very much. And whatever moisture is absorbed, that escapes through evaporation. The problem genuinely lies at the bottom of embankment whereas treatment is done at top portion. The water in clay may rise upto a height of 30 m through capillary action. Thus even a 30m high bank may be saturated at top if water is available in borrow pits. Solutions somehow should be found to this extraordinary feature of clay. 7.2. It should also be realized that methods as mentioned above do not increase the bearing capacity of clay. The only contribution made by these methods is to delay the migration of clay particles into stone ballast. At some locations, either sand is sprinkled repeatedly or ballast unloaded. This only proves that soil is fully unstable and methods employed are futile. The principle requirement is to alter the conditions such that soil does not draw water from borrow pits or ground water through capillary action. One way of achieving this is not to locate borrow pits within the right of way. The Moorum layer at top is noticed to have sunk in embankment; geotextile takes different shapes under moving loads and eventually give up . 7.3. The plastic soil poses three problems: i) poor workability for compaction, ii)high compressibility leading to settlement, and iii) inadequate shear strength for required slope stability. 8.0 Other methods experimented 8.1. Fly ash; Mixing Fly ash by itself has little cementatious property but in the presence of moisture it reacts chemically and forms cementatious compounds and improves strength and compressibility characteristic of soil. Findings have confirmed that plastic Index and Swelling potential decreases with increasing percentage of fly ash. The effect of fly ash is akin to the increased compactive effort. The expansive soil is rendered more stable. The undrained shear strength of BC soil blended with fly ash increases with the increase in ash content. 8.2. Pre-loading is usually a successful ground improvement technique that can be employed for stabilization of soft clays. It involves loading the ground surface to induce a greater proportion of ultimate settlement than the soil foundation is expected to experience after construction. Installation of vertical drains can significantly reduce the pre-loading period. Vertical drains can dissipate the built up excess pore water pressure under repeated loading. These drains accelerate consolidation by shortening the drainage path. 8.3. Investigations have been conducted to study the effect of adding three Chloride compounds (NaCl, Mgcl2, CaCl2) on the properties of silty clay soil. The addition of each compound decreases the liquid limit, plastic limit and plastic Index for the soil. The dry density also increases. The compressive strength of the soil increases with the addition of chloride compounds. This could help improving soil strength and other properties. 8.4. It is shown that prefabricated vertical drains PVD speeds up the excess pore water dissipation. More significant is the considerable reduction of lateral displacement in the PVD

stabilized soil. This is also seen by experiments that the short PVD can be used under track to dissipate excess pore pressure and crucial lateral displacement to improve stability. Vegetation can also be used to reduce settlement and lateral movement. The roots of vegetation act as natural reinforcement apart from dissipating excess pore water pressure. 9.0. All treatments are done with the aim of achieving reduced settlement, increased resilient modulus and decreased ballast degradation. In soft formation area, high volumes of plastic clays can sustain the excess pore water pressure during static and cyclic loading. The excess pore pressure drastically decreases the bearing capacity of the undrained formation leading to overall track failure. It has also been shown that when sub grade stiffness decreases, the sleeper deflection increases dramatically which indicates that maintenance would be a critical issue for tracks on soft formation. Perhaps these solutions did not become popular owing to practical difficulties and their efficacy. 10.0 Solution: - The only technical remedy left is to provide filter material blanket of 0.5 m to 1.0 m at the ground level. This layer does not absorb water in itself but also creates discontinuity in the capillaries. This way we may eliminate one chief source of water supply to clayey embankment and chief source of botheration to P.Way engineers. This prescription however has limited use in new construction of lines. For existing bank Indian Railway Engineers are under curse in perpetuity. Here is no way out other than day to day maintenance. 10.1 In the field, however, while constructing embankment for Railway line or Highways, in such cases we compact the soil mass and do not consolidate. Scientists have advocated provision of a blanket layer of about 0.50 m at ground level below the embankment. Such blankets are also very helpful in construction of highways or airport over compressible soils. Blanket of cohesionless filter material about m thickness placed over the ground surface serves as a drainage layer. It also acts like a filter material preventing migration of clay particles into embankment. It also breaks the capillaries. Findings show that increase of moisture leads to decrease of the soil axial strength. With the increase of wet content, bearing capacity of clay soil decreases and its deformation increases. However, hydraulic conductivity of clay soil is small and with trivial change in its humidity, high expansion and contraction is caused. 10.2 In the National seminar held at Secunderabad on 21 & 22 December,2001 my colleague Mr. K.M. Rao from SC Railway had presented a paper on this theme employing mathematical tool and arrived at following conclusions;


The intensity of isobar at a depth of 1.0m below formation level is as high as 0.75 to 0.90 times that at formation level. Therefore, the problems on account of weak formation are bound to remain even after carrying out moorum blanketing of 1.0m thickness. The safe bearing capacity of most of expansive soil is of the order of 5 to 10 MT/sqm. Therefore if, the existing embankment comprises expansive soil with low bearing capacity, replacing top 1.0m by moorum will not be of much use.

8 ii)
Even if the SBC of embankment at various levels is more than the load intensity and if the SBC at foundation level is less say 20MT/sqm the problem will persist.

The blanket layer plays two vital roles; first checks the ingress of water from top which is not much in extent. The second role is to drain off water seeping up from sub grade. The other areas where blanket is of great use are: It improves bearing capacity by better distribution of load on the sub-grade soil. It prevents ballast penetration in formation. Redistributes induced stresses on the top of sub grade. It prevents mud pumping. 11.0 Conclusion:- Thus, it is obvious that moisture content is the main malevolent factor in clay soils from engineering view point. And water finds ingress in embankment from the bottom of embankment. On IR, there is no practice of improving engineering characteristics of clay by blending with other type of soils or any other method before its use in the embankment. The blanket of sand or coarse material will reduce the severity of problem even when clay is used as construction material. This technique can obviously be applied in new construction. We will however have to bear with the old embankments. References:1. Stabilization of expansive soils using fly ash. S.Bhuvaneshwari; R.G. Robinson; S.R. Gandhi. 2. Soft soil stabilization with special reference to Road and railway embankments. B. Indrana; C. Rujikiatkamjorn; V.Wijeyakulasuriya; M.A. Shahin; D. Christie 3. Stabilisation of silty clay soil using Chloride compounds. Tamadher T. Abood; Anuar Bin Kasa; Zamri Bin Chik 4. Stabilization of rail tracks and under lying soft soil formations. B. Indrana; M.A. Shahin and C.Rujikiatkamjorn. 5. SoalMechanics and Foundations : Dr. B.C.Punmia 6. RDSO Report No GE R- 68 7. Stresses due to applied load on embankment- Paper by shri K.M.Rao, IRSE in National technical seminar held at Secunderabad on 21st & 22nd December-2001