2022 Heavy Haul Session


Interactions Between Wheel and Rail Hardness, Wear, RCF and Maintenance (Perceptions And Realities)

Richard Stock

Richard Stock
Plasser American

An age-old debate amongst railway practitioners has revolved around the potential effects of increased wheel and/or rail steel hardness on corresponding wear rates. In specific, whether raising the hardness of one partner in the wheel-rail system will have a deleterious impact on the wear rate of the other. While “hardness” does impact wear behaviour, it does not comprehensively describe other material characteristics that will influence wheel-rail performance and interaction.

In order to gain insights into the level of agreement, overall opinions and remaining concerns, a survey was designed and issued to railway practitioners, suppliers, consultants, and academics via the network of contacts that has been established within the International Collaborative Research Initiative on Rolling Contact Fatigue and Wear of Rails and Wheels. A total of 11 questions were asked around the topic of increase of hardness of one partner of the wheel rail system and its impact on the other partner that is kept constant.

Out of the numerous answers of this survey, three main perceptions were identified. Based on an extensive literature review as well as considering fundamental factors affecting wheel-rail contact conditions, wear behavior and RCF development. This presentation will examine these three main perceptions and provide some answers to this age-old hardness debate.