WHY are stones piled along railroad tracks?

Ballast serves a number of purposes on railroads. It provides vertical and horizontal stability of the track under the influence of train loads and changing temperatures, and therefore ensures that the rails remain in place when heavy trains are run over.

It also plays an important role in restraining vegetation that can weaken the soil beneath railroad tracks. Another major function of ballast is that it protects the rails from flooding. This doesn’t mean that the ballast completely isolates the tracks from the water, but it facilitates drainage so that the liquid doesn’t erode the ground.

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