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What is a sleeper like?

A railroad tie/railway tie (North America), or railway sleeper (Europe) is a rectangular object used as a base for railroad tracks. Ties are generally laid transverse to the rails, on which the rails are supported and fixed. Ties transfer the loads from rails to the track ballast and subgrade and hold the rails upright and to the correct gauge.

Traditionally, ties have been made of wood, but concrete is now widely used. Steel ties and plastic composite ties are currently used as well, although far less than wood or concrete ties. As of January 2008, 91.5% of all ties laid in North America were timber ties, whereas the approximate combined market share for all concrete, steel, and plastic composite ties was 8.5%.

Ties are normally laid on top of track ballast, which supports and holds them in place, and provides drainage and flexibility. Heavy crushed stone is the normal material for the ballast, but on lines with lower speeds and weight, sand, gravel, and even ash from the fires of coal-fired steam locomotives have been used.

Approximately 3000 ties are used per mile of railroad track. Ties/sleepers are set much closer together in the USA, where rails are traditionally fastened to the ties by a railroad spike rather than the substantial iron/steel used in Europe.

Ex.5. Replace Russian words with their English equivalents. Translate the sentences into Russian.

  1. (костыль) is a long piece of metal with a sharp point.

  2. A (рельсовый костыль) is a large nail used to secure rails and tie plates to railroad ties in the track. R. Stevens is credited with the invention of the railroad spike, being first used in 1832.

  3. The (рельсовый костыль) was an invention which resulted from the state of industrialization in the United States in the early 19th century: English mainline railways of that period used heavy and expensive cast iron chairs (рельсовая подушка ) to secure T shaped rails; instead, Stevens added a supporting base to the T rail which could be fixed with a simple spike. 

  4. The spike is still the most common (рельсовое скрепление) in North America.

  5. A (прямоугольник) is a four-sided shape whose corners are all ninety degree angles. Each side of a rectangle is the same length as the one opposite to it.

  6. A (прямоугольник) is a parallelogram having four right angles.

  7. A (прямоугольник) is a plane figure with four straight sides and four right angles.

  8. Something that is (прямоугольный) is shaped like a rectangle.

  9. (Древесина) is wood that is used for building houses and making furniture.

  10. (Деревянный) objects are made of wood.

  11. Railroad ties, also called cross ties, are creosoted or chemically treated (деревянный брус) that have been historically used to lay railway tracks.

  12. Creosoted (древесина, дерево) is very heavy. Railway ties usually weigh over a hundred pounds apiece.


Ex. 1. Before reading the text make sure you know the following words:

  • to tread (BrE) - to put your foot on or in something while you are walking [= step]: She trod barefoot on the soft grass. Scorpions seldom go out of their way to attack people and accidents usually happen when scorpions are trodden on. Fools drive where angels fear to tread.

  • predecessor - a machine, system etc that existed before another one in a process of development [≠ successor]: The new BMW has a more powerful engine than its predecessor.

  • path - a track that has been made deliberately or made by many people walking over the same ground: I walked nervously up the garden path towards the front door. Follow the path along the river to the bridge.

  • to trip - to hit something with your foot by accident so that you fall or almost fall [= stumble]: He tripped and fell. Clary tripped over a cable and broke his foot. He tripped on the bottom step.

Ex. 2. Match the English terms in column A with their Russian equivalents in column B.



  1. to loosen

  1. абразивный износ поверхности шпал

  1. susceptible to wear

  1. ослабляться

  1. creosote treating

  1. выход костылей из шпал

  1. insect infestation

  1. предохраняющее средство, антисептик

  1. preservative

  1. долговечный

  1. durable

  1. расщепление

  1. splitting

  1. восприимчивый к износу

  1. abrasive damage to the tie

  1. пропитка креозотом

  1. spike-pull

  1. заражение насекомыми

Ex.3. Translate the sentences into Russian.

  1. Сucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and tobacco are very susceptible to attacks from the Cucumber Mosaic Virus.

  2. Older people are more susceptible to infections.

  3. Soil on the mountain slopes is very susceptible to erosion.

  4. Retail prices are therefore very susceptible to the law of supply and demand.

  5. You’ll need a spanner (гаечный ключ) to loosen that bolt.

  6. The screws have loosened.

  7. Wood is a durable material.

  8. Bronze is harder and more durable than tin.

  9. Plastic window frames are more durable than wood.

  10. The roofs are constructed from heavy and durable timbers, usually teak or mahogany.

Ex. 4. Read the text and translate it, using a dictionary, if necessary.

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