Rail Embankment Stabilization Needs on the Hudson Bay Railway

This study looked into characterizing the current condition of permafrost found along the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR) located in northern Manitoba, Canada, and performed limited investigations on potential techniques to stabilize the most challenging locations along the corridor. The findings showed higher level of track geometry exceptions (often due to sinkholes) to be more prevalent in the discontinuous permafrost zones where there is contact between permafrost ground (peat plateau) and non-permafrost ground (fen). Permafrost thaw was found to occur at these transition zones, as the relatively warm fen loses its heat to the cold peat plateau. An investigation into the potential factors that are causing permafrost degradation revealed the occurrence of at least 19 wildfires along the study site since 1977 as one such factor, as locations affected by fires recorded more track deviations than those that were not affected. Other potential factors were loss of vegetation and poor drainage conditions, both identified as important indicators of permafrost health by the developed predictive model. The findings also indicate that permafrost boundaries defined by EBA during earlier studies in the 1980s seem to be changing and permafrost degradation is moving northwards. Previously stable permafrost tables in the discontinuous zones were seen to be thawed and the southern boundary of the continuous zone now has discontinuous permafrost in its extent. As part of the project, a three-level permafrost degradation susceptibility chart with ratings 1, 2, and 3 representing low, moderate and high susceptibility regions, respectively, was developed as a first step to provide a more quantifiable ratings to identify the permafrost condition. A literature review of existing and hypothesized permafrost stabilization measures was done which identified a spectrum of passive to more rigorous active techniques. The development of specific stabilization recommendations was far beyond the current scope of works therefore it is recommended that next steps for this project should be aimed at conducting a more detailed investigation of alternative measures, potentially followed by a prototype testing to identify the most effective solutions.

  • Record URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This document was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Michigan Technological University, Houghton

    Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences
    Houghton, MI  United States 

    Michigan Technological University, Houghton

    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    1400 Townsend Drive
    Houghton, MI  United States  49931-1295

    National University Rail Center (NURail)

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 205 N. Mathews Avenue
    Urbana, IL  United States  61801

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Oommen, Thomas
    • Lautala, Pasi
    • Addison, Priscilla
  • Publication Date: 2017-3-24


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 65p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01633349
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: NURail2013-MTU-R08
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT12-G-UTC18 (Grant 1)
  • Created Date: Apr 28 2017 10:42AM