2022 Heavy Haul Session


State of the Art / Recent Developments in Friction Management Consumables (GF and TOR)

Louisa Stanlake

Louisa Stanlake
L.B. Foster Rail Technologies, Corp.

Friction management is a key component in controlling the wheel/rail interface and has been proven to impart numerous benefits, predominantly asset life extension. Specially designed chemical materials are applied, via trackside or on-board systems, and consumed in the wheel/rail contact to provide friction control. There are two distinct regimes in which these “consumables” are applied: the top-of-rail (TOR)/wheel tread or the gauge face (GF)/wheel flange. Each location requires products that are engineered to meet the different friction and environmental demands as well as application methods.

Freight railroads are currently seeing rapid expansion of both TOR and GF technologies, and several alternative materials are emerging as these markets grow. One advancement in consumable products for trackside application is the development of validated all-season materials, which can be applied in all temperatures without the need for seasonal product switch-outs. This innovation provides advantages to the railroads by streamlining filling labor, product procurement and storage. Use of more premium raw materials in the formulations provides enhanced durability of the consumable products, resulting in lower application rates, or the capability to space application units farther apart to achieve the same benefits.

For on-board application, consumable technology has been concentrated on solid lubricants for protection of freight locomotive wheel flanges; however, advancements in friction modifier formulations have allowed application of consumables to the TOR using an on-board spray application. Innovative water-based products have been developed to have favorable spray quality over a wide operating temperature range to provide the benefits that are synonymous with friction management.

This presentation will review advancements in consumable products applied to both TOR/wheel tread and GF/wheel flange locations. Laboratory and field data will be used to showcase how the innovation of consumable products can create added value to freight railroads.