Reference-Free Displacements for Condition Assessment of Timber Railroad Bridges

F. Moreu, J. Li, H. Jo, R. E. Kim, S. Scola, B. F. Spencer, J. M. Lafave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Current railroad bridge inspection and rating practices include observing bridge movement under live loads to help assess bridge conditions. Recent research has shown that transverse displacements of timber trestle bridges can capture critical changes in bridge serviceability (the ability to safely carry out railroad operations) as a function of railroad loading, speed, and direction. Measuring bridge movement under trains in the field is difficult and expensive because a fixed reference point is not normally available, thus creating the need to erect independent scaffolding to create good reference points near a timber bridge. This research demonstrates the potential of using reference-free accelerations collected with wireless smart sensors to estimate railroad bridge transverse displacements under live train loads. Focus is placed on timber trestle bridges, which comprise approximately 24% of the total inventory length of railroad bridges in the United States. The results show that wireless smart sensors can estimate transverse displacements of timber railroad trestles and could become an effective tool for campaign monitoring of railroad bridges (with applications toward helping overall bridge assessment).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04015052
JournalJournal of Bridge Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Acceleration
  • Displacement
  • Live load testing
  • Railroad bridges
  • Wireless smart sensors
  • Wooden bridges

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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