The physical model based on moving constant loads is widely used for the analysis of railway bridges. Nevertheless, the moving loads model is not well suited for the study of short bridges (L⩽20–25 m) since the results it produces (displacements and accelerations) are much greater than those obtained from more sophisticated ones. In this paper two factors are analysed which are believed to have an influence in the dynamic behaviour of short bridges. These two factors are not accounted for by the moving loads model and are the following: the distribution of the loads due to the presence of the sleepers and ballast layer, and the train–bridge interaction. In order to decide on their influence several numerical simulations have been performed. The results are presented and discussed herein
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