Modern Railway Track

Motto: Tolle lege!

Perhaps the best and most complete technical book about track is “Modern Railway Track” written by Dr Coenraad Esveld, Professor of Railway Engineering at Delft University of Technology. modern-railway-track-mrt-coenraad-esveld-erri-d202-uic-720-leaflet-cwr-cwerri-buckling-crt-management

A detailed Table of Contents of the second edition can be found here together with a brief selection of the book.

The second edition, written in 2001, presents in a very academical but comprehensive style, all the main topics related to modern railway track.

Quoting extensively from the preface of the second edition, this is a short description of the book main topics:

The first seven chapters are dealing with the basic theory of the wheel rail interface and track design.


A detailed attention is given to both static and dynamic aspects, justified by example results obtained through different modelling software.

Chapter 2 – Wheel-Rail interface – presents the main concepts of wheel-rail guidance and interaction – the Klingel movement theory, equivalent conicity and contact stresses. It also presents the train resistances and puling (traction) forces.

Esveld was an important member of the ERRI D202 expert committee on Continuous Welded Rail (CWR) Track Stability. This committee had an extensive research programme, producing in 6 years 12 research reports which are the foundation of the UIC Leaflet 720 R – Laying and maintenance of CWR Track. This experience is transparent in the chapter 7 of the book, focused on the CWR stability.


The track structure is presented in two separate chapters – ballasted and slab track – the last focusing on the developments of the last decades, starting from the Shinkansen and Rheda slab tracks and going through a variety sequence of examples, touching important subjects such as slab-ballasted track transitions, substructure requirements and slab stability on soft soils.

The chapter on rail covers extensively the manufacturing process, rail metallurgy, heat treatment and rail welding. It reviews the EN rail standards and discusses about rail defects and the different modern rail inspection systems.

Chapter 11 presents the switches and crossings – here high speed turnouts are discussed together with the geometrical design and modern inspection systems for controlling the switch maintenance.


Track maintenance and renewal includes an extensive presentation of the track deterioration mechanism, and presents maintenance methods and machines. Here is presented in detail the embedded rail structure (ERS).


Optimisation was one of the issues very much underestimated in railway engineering (how right you are, Meneer Esveld!). The chapter on numerical optimisation of railway track is dedicated to optimisation techniques for components and structures but also to decision support systems and resource optimisation.

A separate chapter (14) presents the testing and acceptance, detailing the acceptance criteria for new railway components (nice surprise in Figure 14.19).

The Noise and Vibration chapter goes through the ground vibrations and Rayleigh wave propagation, presenting also silent track solutions.

Inspection and detection methods are discussed in Chapter 16, presenting bridge and tunnel monitoring but also substructure monitoring – ground penetrating radar (GPR), track stiffness measurement, high speed deflectometry, ultrasonic and thermographic infrared inspection. The inspection and monitoring methods of switches and crossing are also detailed. The chapter describes also in great detail the track recording cars and the track quality indexes – standard deviation, VRA and power spectral density (PSD).

The chapter on high speed tracks contains some application of high speed projects and some dedicated issues such as pressure waves in tunnels. Esveld presents here also, in brief, the magnetic levitation system.


Track maintenance management systems (TMMS) are presented in chapter 18, where various issues on track maintenance and renewal decision support are described, as well as monitoring phenomena relevant to various maintenance processes. ECOTRACK, a decision support system to manage track maintenance and renewal developed under UIC, is detailed in this chapter.

Railway asset management chapter deals with the general principles of this concept and the way in which such systems can be set up.

The final chapter is describing the general principles of life cycle cost analysis and presenting a number of interesting case studies.

And now, a personal note:

All the track engineering books I presented and will present here, have a common personal characteristic: every time I had a read I discovered new things which the author presented very well but, before, I did not considered them as I did when reading them again … It seems that with age comes experience, additional knowledge and some increased ability to comprehend mysterious track engineering concepts …

Esveld’s Modern Railway Track is the most surprising from this point of view – every time I had a particular railway subject in mind and checked the book, I discovered that Mr Esveld described that subject in one way or another, sometimes in such great details that I asked myself why I did not remember that. The last such moments when this happened were one about the orphan rule of cant design for reverse curves and the other on vehicle response analysis (VRA) – an entire well documented chapter!

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