Railway ballast provides both the foundation and drainage for railway track. It can become heavily contaminated with diesel fuel due to leakage and spillage. Typical analytical methods for soils may not be applicable to the assessment of ballast. The efficiency of different commonly available solvents as ballast extractants was investigated. Ethyl acetate performed best, yielding 3870, 6065 and 8990 mg kg^(-1) more contaminant the dichloromethane, hexane and methanol, respectively. Mechanical shaking and sonication were compared for different sample weights, solvent volume ratios and extraction times. Using ethyl acetate, efficient practical assessment of contaminated ballast is achieved using a ratio of at least 100 ml of solvent to 120 g of ballast.