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railways Fine grains of sand can leak from rail cars, accumulate in rail bed ballast and, during a rainstorm, turn into mushy, track-loosening mud.
Image credit: Tuncer Edil/UW-Madison

railways The big chunks of rock - crushed limestone or dolomite that engineers call ballast - that keep railroad tracks in place look like a solid footing even as freight cars rumble overhead. But temperature and vibration can destabilize ballast over time.
Image credit: Tuncer Edil/UW-Madison

railways Researchers will spend part of the spring examining railroad tracks along a section of freight track in northern Illinois. They will monitor changes in the ballast, the chunks of rock that keep railroad tracks in place, as well as any corresponding deformation in the tracks themselves.
Image credit: Tuncer Edil/UW-Madison
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