Rail is one of the largest transportation modes offering freight and passenger traffic in rapidly developing nations, including India. Concerted efforts to improve productivity, modernization and technology upgrading have led to an impressive growth in railways and port infrastructure. Large-scale physical modelling and full-scale field monitoring often provide significant knowledge to better understand performance and to extend the current state-of-the-art in design of rail and port. A series of large-scale laboratory tests were conducted to analyse behaviour of granular materials (ballast, sub-ballast) under cyclic and impact loads. Effectiveness of using geosynthetic grids, geocells and shock mats was also studied. Comprehensive field trials were carried out on instrumented rail track sections and port reclamation sites in the towns of Bulli and Singleton and in Port Kembla (Wollongong), respectively. This keynote paper provides an insight to geotechnical behaviour of granular materials capturing the effects of degradation and deformation in railways and potential of using granular waste for the reclamation project in port.