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Wear 191 (1996) 1-13

Rail rolling contact fatigue

Research by the European Rail Research Institute
D.F. Cannon a, H. Pradier b
aBritish Rail Research, Derby, UK
b European Rail Research Institute. Utrecht, Netherlands

Received 9 December 1994; accepted 31 March 1995


Rail rolling contact fatigue is an increasing problem in high speed, mixed and heavy haul railways and since 1987 this has been the subject
of a research programme of the European Rail Research Institute, Utrecht. The objectives of the programme are to develop an improved
understanding of the rolling contact fatigue problem and the means of controlling or eliminating it. The programme has covered a broad range
of activities including reviews, theoretical analyses, laboratory and track experiments. The programme is managed by the ERR1 D173
Committee and has involved the collaboration of 11 railway authorities, 7 rail makers and 5 universities. This paper presents a state of the art
review of the research programme and some of the observations SOfar.

Keyworak Rail; Fatigue; Failure; Damage

1. Introduction 0 premature removal of rails,

0 complete rail failure.
The development of steel making technology has substan- Recognising the lack of understanding of the mechanisms
tially reduced rolling contact fatigue defects associated with involved, and of solutions to the problem, the Union Inter-
non-metallic oxide inclusions and hydrogen shatter cracking nationale des Chemins de Fer (International Union of Rail-
[ 11. However, rolling contact fatigue cracks initiating on or ways) commissioned its associate organisation, the European
very close to the rail’s running surface, which are not asso- Rail Research Institute (ERRI), to undertake a research pro-
ciated with any specific material faults or imperfections, are gramme. In 1987 the ERRI D 173 Rail Rolling Contact
an increasing problem in high speed passenger, mixed and Fatigue Committee was formed and since then its work pro-
heavy haul railways [ 21. The occurrence of these defects, gramme has involved the collaboration of 11 railway author-
which include head checking and squats (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2),
may lead to:
0 expensive rail grinding in an attempt to remove them,

Traffic Direction
Fig. 2. Longitudinal/vertical rail head section through a squat

0043-1648/96/$15.00 8 1996 Elsevier Science S.A. All rights reserved

2 D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear 191(1996) I-13

Table 1 means of controlling or eliminating it. An over view of the

Participants in the ERRI D173 research programme programme is presented in Tables 2-4.
Organisation Category”

British Railways (BRB) M

2. Review of rail rolling contact fatigue
French Railways (SNCF)
German Federal Railways (DB now DB AG) M
East German Railways (DR now DB AG) M The Committee’s review of rolling contact fatigue in rails
Rumanian Railways (CFR) M
covered service experience, contact and fracture mechanics,
Swedish Railways (Banverket) M
Belgium Railways (SNCB) M material aspects, laboratory and simulated service testing, and
Polish Railways (PKP) M future developments [ 21. The review includes 148 references
Hungarian Railways (MAV) M and many valuable contributions were made by intemation-
Swiss Railways (SBB/CFF) M ally recognised experts. Some conclusions from the work are:
US Department of Transportation I
The incidence of rolling contact fatigue in high speed pas-
Imperial College I
Salford University I senger carrying lines is increasing.
Technical University Munich I There has been confusion in the terminology used to
Technical University Warsaw I describe various forms of rolling contact fatigue.
Technical University Magdeburg I In service grinding to remove small surface cracks and
British Steel Track Products (UK) R
establish low contact stress rail head profiles should be
Sogerail (France) R
Thyssen Stahl (Germany) R given further attention.
MMRA (Luxembourg) R There is a need to have a means of relating metallurgical
Huta Katowica (Poland) R properties and material properties to the rolling contact
Voest Alpine (Austria) R fatigue resistance of rail steels.
Inexa Profil (Sweden) R
None of the available laboratory techniques for determin-
“M, member; I. invited specialist; R, representatives from steel industries. ing the rolling contact fatigue resistance of rail steels could
reproduce all of the necessary service loading conditions.
There is a need for reliable theoretical models describing
ities, 7 rail makers and 5 universities (Table 1). The principal the mechanisms of rolling contact fatigue and relating them
objectives of the programme are to develop an improved to material characteristics which can be established in the
understanding of the rolling contact fatigue problem and the laboratory.

Table 2
ERR1 D173 research programme-reviews and models

Subject ERR1 report status

RCF literature review RPl Published

Review of modem developments in rail steel RP8 In progress
Assessment of ultrasonic methods to measure residual stresses RP12 Drafted
Revision of the UIC rail defect catalogue In progress
Inclusion and oxygen limits in rail steels RP7 Drafted
Crack tip stress analysis/finite element method RPll(interimreport) Drafted
Rail head profile definition and tolerances RP9 Drafted

Table 3
ERR1 D173 research programme-laboratory tests

Subject ERR1 report status

SmaII scale rotating test pieces--effects of lubricants on RCF RP5 Drafted

Full scale, rolling wheel service simulation tests RP5 Drafted
Energy approach to RCF RPlO Drafted
Neutron beam measurement of residual stresses RP4 Published
Properties of head hardened rails RP2 Published
Cyclic material properties of head hardened rails In progress
Fatigue tests on head checked rails RP6 Drafted
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear 191(1996) 1-13 3

Table 4
ERRI D173 research programme-track tests

Subject ERR1 report status

Resistance of head hardened rails to rolling contact fatigue RP3 ( 1st interim report) Published
RP13(2nd interim report) Drafted
Effects of lubrication on RCF In progress
Grinding of low contact stress profiles in track In progress

‘Rolling contact fatigue.

Controlled service trials, in track prone to rolling contact

fatigue, were required to determine the performance and
economics of promising new steels such as on- and off-
line head hardened rails.
Rail steel specifications should provide limits on non-
metallic inclusion types and sizes to particularly reduce
the possibility of subsurface initiated fatigue damage.
The results of the review significantly influenced the sub-
sequent research programme of ERR1 D173.

3. Descriptions of rolling contact fatigue

Terms such as “shelling”, “flaking” and “pits” have

been used relatively loosely over many years to describe
subsurface and surface initiated rolling contact fatigue defects
and, in some cases, both. This has led to some confusion and plansof rollingcircle
in the review described above two rolling contact fatigue
plane of symmetry of rail
groups were defined, one being associated with subsurface
initiation and the other with surface initiation. It was also ___,
position of radii R-33a
proposed that the term shelling should be reserved exclu-
sively for subsurface initiated defects. It was noted in the
review that because of the confusion, and its implications
with regard to gathering information and understanding the
problem, it was timely to revise defect classification cata-
logues. The UIC Sub-Committee 7G concurred with this view
and the ERR1 D173 Committee has been commissioned to
revise the UIC Rail Defect Catalogue and the work is now in

4. Modelling of rolling contact fatigue cracks

Numerical modelling of rolling contact fatigue cracks is

being undertaken by Prof. Stupnicki and his team of workers
at the Technical University Warsaw to predict fracture
mechanics crack tip stress intensity factors (KS) [ 31. The
development of this approach is expected to provide a greater
insight into the relative significance of some controllable
features, for example, wheel-rail forces, the size, geometry Fig. 3. Dimensions and geometry of the wheel-rail combination used in the
and location of the wheel-rail contact patch, friction forces, 3D analysis of a tramverSe semi-circular surface breaking crack (from Ref.
lubrication, residual, bending and thermal stresses. Most of [31).
D.F. Cannon,H. Pradier/ Wear191 (1996) 1-13

cuon for z a 7.5
(plane of rollhg cirde)

Fig. 4. Distribution of normal, contact, node forces for the wheel located just above the crack (see Fig. 3.). Normal load 70 kN, traction load 0. x is in the
wheel rolling direction and z is normal to it. (From Ref. [3] .)

this work has concentrated on the surface initiated (squat or 0 Again a 2D analysis has shown that for an oblique crack,
head check) type defect. Two and three dimensional models propagating in the direction of wheel motion, and with a
have been developed and these are being used to study the tractive force applied at the rail surface in the same direc-
effects of crack size, crack geometry, friction and fluid entrap- tion as the motion, significant increases in the absolute
ment on crack tip stress intensity factors. Ki, K, and, for the values and amplitudes of KI may arise (Fig. 6). This effect
3D case, Kin histories have been developed as the wheel not only occurs for the tensile bulk stress case but also to
passes over various cracks. Some of the observations to date a lesser extent for zero and compressive bulk stress cases.
are: The coefficient of friction between the wheel and rail and
For the new wheel-rail profile combination chosen the tractive forces generated may therefore be very signif-
(Fig. 3)) a 3D analysis has shown that the pressure distri- icant with regard to early “squat” propagation.
bution between the rail and wheel is not as predicted by ?? A 3D analysis of a surface breaking transverse crack
Hertzian theory. This is so for loading through untracked (Fig. 3) has shown that traction forces applied at the rail
rail and even more so when loading occurs above a surface surface appear to have little influence on the cyclic change
breaking crack (Fig. 4). It is also interesting to note that of K and hence should not greatly affect crack propagation
the peak values of contact force occur at radii changes on rates.
the wheel and rail profiles. This suggests that design ?? The relative magnitude and phasing of crack displacement
changes might reduce these peaks. modes is likely to lead to complex models of crack prop-
In the absence of any bulk stresses, e.g. bending, thermal agation.
and residual stresses, a 2D analysis has shown that K,, A 3D analysis of an oblique surface breaking, semi-elliptic,
dominates the crack tip stress field. However, if a crack tip “squat” type of crack has been recently performed and this
tensile stress state is caused by steady state bulk stresses, is described in a paper at this conference by Bogdanski et al.
which gives rise to a positive value of K,, substantial KI [41.
cyclic loading might occur as consecutive wheels disturb Further work on the 3D analysis is continuing and this will
the steady state condition (Fig. 5). include development of a liquid entrapment model. Labora-
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear 191(1996) l-13 5


6,, I +2W MPa

6n- 0 MPa
I Jkl

I ’
l*a. I ’ \
I \
I ’ \
I ‘4. \
I 14. \ : \
I \
‘I :
/ 14.
/’ c-a.
_----2, \I
__-- oe.


---- 6,,,, . +!ZW MPa
-- 6,,,,. 0 MPa

.20 0-N
/ . .
. .
,I6 / %N
. .
__--- \ .B
\ i/--1,,
\ ’ iI
-20 -10 10 20 x bw

C AK,, [Mb Jml

---- 6,-+2CQMPa
-- 6~ - OMPa /*.--------- \
I’ .2o
1’ .I8
I’ \

/’ ,/ :; y-----%__

____--_- A/

/ :‘ _
-20 ----78-- 10 20 x b-4

Fig. 5.2D analysis showing the effect of uniform longitudinal internal stress ( ulnl) on the variation of (a) Rice’s J contour integral, (b) stress intensity factor
K, and (c) stress intensity factor 4,. Longitudinal traction (braking) force of 18 kN; crack angle to the surface of 2.5”.(From Ref. [3] .)

tory photo elastic studies will be undertaken to estimate crack A 2% longitudinal creepage was used in all of the tests.
tip stress intensity factors; the results will be compared with The effect of different viscosity lubricants, Aseol spray (a
the numerical ones. flange lubricant) and Texaco 904 grease (a track side lubri-
cant), was studied (Fig. 7). The results of the programme
show that:
5. Laboratory experiments 0 Rolling contact fatigue damage in the lubricated tests could
only be created following pre-damage in a period of dry
5.1. Small scale rotating test pieces
running. This was in contrast to previous tests using water
British Rail Research have undertaken laboratory rolling were dry running pre-damage was not required [7]. The
contact fatigue tests using an Amsler machine [5]. These explanation for this is thought to be the approximately five
tests were conducted on the rail steels used in the track tests times lower coefficients of friction for the lubricated con-
as described in Section 6.1 i.e. a naturally hard UIC 860 ditions.
grade 9OOA rail steel (280BHN) and two head hardened (340 ??The two lubricants resulted in similar rolling contact
and 370BHN) variants of it. Detailed information on these fatigue lives. Rolling contact fatigue damage did not occur
rail steels is given in Ref. [ 61. in the absence of lubrication.
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier / Wear 191(1996) l-l 3

---- T,. Old
--.T.- 9kN

C I((@WaJml

----T,t 0161
--.T,B 9kN

----. TX. 18 kN 20

Fig. 6.2D analysis showing the effect of longitudinal traction (braking) forces on the variation of (a) Rice’s J contour integral, (b) stress intensity factor 4.
and (c) stress intensity factor K,l. Uniform longitudinal stress, uint. is zero; crack angle to the surface of 15”. (From Ref. [3] .)

?? The rolling contact fatigue life of the head hardened sam- success in reproducing wheel-rail contact conditions which
ples was about an order of magnitude longer than that of were similar to those occurring in service. As with the small
the UIC grade 9OOA material. scale Amsler tests, wear resistance increased with increasing
0 The head hardened rail samples showed the greater wear hardness.
5.3. An energy approach to rolling contactfatigue
5.2. Full scale rolling wheel on rail tests initiation

Using a test machine developed by the Polish State Rail- An energy approach to characterising the onset of rolling
ways Research Centre in Warsaw [ 81, laboratory full scale, contact fatigue damage in both laboratory tests and under
unidirectional rolling load tests (Fig. 8) have been carried service conditions has been attempted by Prof. Fleischer and
out on the three materials used in the Amsler tests described Dr Weinhauer at the Technical University of Magdeburg [ 81.
in Section 5.1 Although some difficulties have been experi- The method is based upon the measurement of the apparent
enced with the technique, rolling contact fatigue damage was friction energy density using sophisticated recording and
produced in each of the materials. The “head check” type analysis systems (Fig. 10). Unfortunately, difficulties with
damage was virtually identical to that appearing in the site the laboratory test conditions have largely obscured any pos-
trials (Fig. 9) and this suggested that there had been some itive conclusions from this work.
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear 191(1996) 1-13 I

Wheel Travel Direction

Fig. 9. Rail surface appearance showing head check type cracks produced
in a full scale laboratory test (from Ref. [5] .)

of head checked rails is about 40% of that of new rail. How-

ever, two independent theoretical assessments, one carried
out at TUM and the other at British Rail Research, suggest
that similarly damaged head checked rails are unlikely to lead
to transverse fracture of the rail under normal operating con-
ditions. This conclusion is largely supported by service expe-
rience; however, there is some recent evidence that near
._____-_ -

+--- Tex304
transverse fatigue cracks originating from head checks can
occur, furthermore, a few complete transverse fractures of
the rail have been experienced. Certain loading conditions
which would increase stresses and therefore increase the
Uo Grade 2ODA- H”d lhdoned to 370 ?HN
probability of transverse failure from head checking are dis-
*--- Asbol
cussed in [ 91; these include unfavourable axle load and spac-

Fig. 7. The effect of lubricants on rolling contact fatigue--results of small

ing, unusually heavy traffic, low ballast modulus and rail top
scale tests. irregularities. However, it is clear that even under operating
conditions which would be thought of as normal, transverse
cracking is a possibility.

5.5. Cyclic material properties of head hardened rails

trmrducer -
Cyclic stress-strain data and strain-life curves have been
Lo.d call -I--__ determined for the naturally hard UIC grade 9OOA and the
head hardened 370HB steels used in the track tests described
in Section 6.1 (Fig. 11 and Fig. 12 and Table 5). The test
programme was carried out by British Rail Research using
small, axially loaded, cylindrical specimens which were
machined from the gauge comer zone of the rail head (i.e.
the same position as that used for standard tensile tests).
Under cyclic loading conditions both of these steels show
significant softening at low strains (the monotonic 0.2%
Fig. 8. Full scale unidirectional rolling load rig. (Based on Ref. [S] .)
proof stresses of the grade 9OOA and 370HB steels are 514
5.4. Bending fatigue strength of head checked rails and 795 MPa respectively [ 61) ; this softening is usual for
these types of pearlitic steel [ lo]. The 370HB steel shows a
Laboratory tests have been carried out by Prof. Eisenmann higher cyclic yield than the naturally hard one (Fig. 11) and
and colleagues at the Technical University Munich (TUM) this suggests a higher fatigue limit. The 370HB steel also
to determine the bending fatigue resistance of samples of hardens to a greater extent than the 9OOA steel which also
moderately and severely head checked rails that had been suggests a superior fatigue performance at high strain levels.
withdrawn from service [ 91. These tests were carried out in The strain-life curves (Fig. 12) reflect the cyclic stress-
four point bending with the head in tension. The results of strain results, showing both a higher fatigue limit and better
the tests show that, under these conditions, the fatigue limit low cycle fatigue performance for the 370HB steel.
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear 191(1996) 1-13

1 Round specimen
2 Flat sfzecimen
3 Force transducer
4 AppliGatlW
of force
5 Lever

7 Lever bearing
S Stop adjustment screw
9 Platen
10 Three-component dynamometer
11 Flat sample hdder
. I, I I 12 Oil reservoir
13 Round specimen carrier
14 Drhreshaft
15 Accelerometer

Fig. 10. Test machine used in the energy studies (from Ref. [ 81)

’ I I I I
1 10 1v 10' 104 10' 10' 10' 10' 10'

Strain Lila(reversala)

Fig. 11. Cyclic stress/strain curves for two rail steels. Fig. 12. Strain/life curves for two rail steels.

The strong cyclic strain hardening behaviour of the 370HB

of workers from the University of Salford, Imperial College
steel lends some support to the superior resistance of this London and British Rail Research at the Institute Laue Lan-
material to head checking which has so far been observed in
gevin, Grenoble, France. Over 4000 strain measurements
the track tests described in Section 6.1 and in Refs. [ 1 l-131.
were made during the investigation.
Typical results showing vertical residual stresses in the rail
5.6. Neutron beam measurement of residual stresses
head of samples of naturally hard and head hardened rails
TO support an understanding of the forces which propagate after being subjected to traffic loading in one of the track tests
rolling contact fatigue cracks, residual stresses have been described in Section 6.1 are shown in Fig. 13. The rails were
measured using neutron beam scanning in a number of nat- the outside ones in a curve and the inside gauge corner shows
urally hard and head hardened rails in the new and used much steeper residual stress gradients. The values of residual
conditions [ 141. This programme was undertaken by a team stresses are also higher in the head hardened rail sample.
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear 191(1996) 1-13 9

Table 5
Cyclic material properties of naturally hard and head hardened rail steels

n’ K’(MPa) a,‘(MPa) b %’ c A E( x 10’)

UIC 860 grade 9OOAnaturally hard-280BHN 0.228 1784 1226 -0.103 0.345 -0.519 0.0012
UIC 860 grade 9OOAhead hardened to 370BHN 0.152 1747 1517 - 0.087 0.561 - 0.617 0.002

n’ cyclic strain hardening exponent

K’ strength coefficient
ur’ fatigue strength coefficient
b fatigue strength exponent
4’ fatigue ductility coefficient
C fatigue ductility exponent
AE ( x 10’) total strain amplitude at 10’reversals
The cyclic stress-strain curves (Fig. 11) are given by E= a/E+ (a/K’)““‘, where E= strain, o = stress, E = Young’s modulus = 2.05 X 10’MPa.
The strain-life curves (Fig. 12) are given by ?? r/2 = ??
r’(2N,)‘+ (a,‘/.!?) (2Nr)* where er,/2 = strain amplitude, 2Nr= reversals.

line and the method might also be used as part of a system to

determine thermal stresses in continuously welded rail.
The ERR1 D173 Committee has carried out an assessment
of a commercially available ultrasonic residual stress meas-
urement system which is based upon the time of flight of both
compressional and shear waves. This assessment [ 151 is
based upon the experience of six users who have measured
longitudinal residual stresses in rails. In many cases destruc-
tive residual stress measurements were also undertaken.
The results of the assessment suggest that the method pro-
vides very repeatable measurements but, that owing to uncer-
tainties affecting the system’s calibration which originate in
the sample to be tested, absolute values of residual stress may
be in substantial error.

6. Tests in track

6.1. The pe$ormance of head hardened rails

Site trials have been established in Poland, Switzerland,

Hungary and Germany to assess the rolling contact fatigue
resistance of a standard naturally hard UIC 860 grade 900A
(280BHN) rail steel and two head hardened (340 and
370HB) variants of it [ 11,121. All rails have the UIC 60 rail
Fig. 13. Neutron beam measurements of residual stresses-vertical residual section and were produced by Thyssen Stahl AG using an
stress contours in (a) UIC 860 grade A naturally hard and (b) UIC 860
induction off-line head hardening plant.
grade A head hardened rails following 32 MGT of traftic. Stresses in MPa,
dashed lines are compression and full lines tension. (From Ref. [ 141.) The rail steels were subjected to a rigorous laboratory test
programme which included the determination of fatigue crack
Although there were some difficulties with the approach growth rates, fracture toughness and longitudinal residual
(the final one being the closure of the nuclearreactor) a useful stresses. The heat treated rails were found to be as good and
insight into rail residual stresses was achieved. better than the naturally hard grade of rail steel. Further infor-
mation on these steels will be found in [ 6,131.
5.7. Ultrasonic method of residual stress measurement The four test sites are all curved with radii between 350
and 780 m and are being monitored in accordance with a
Proprietary equipment for the ultrasonic measurement of prescribed set of requirements with the work being performed
residual stresses has been available for some years. Such by Thyssen Stahl and Swiss Federal Railways’ staff.
equipment has been used frequently to measure longitudinal To date, the head hardened rails appear to be showing
residual stresses just under the surface of the rail. The fast, greater resistance to both rolling contact fatigue (head check-
simple and non-destructive determination of residual stresses ing) and wear. Interim observations from these tests are pre-
would be particularly advantageous within the rail production sented in a paper by Wick et al. [ 131 at this conference.
10 D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear I91 (1996) 1-13

6.2. The effects of lubrication on rolling contactfatigue will be ground to a designed low contact stress profile. Grind-
ing of all four locations will take place in October 1994.
Of the four test zones mentioned above, two are subjected
to lubrication from passing locomotives and the most serious
rolling contact fatigue damage observed to date (surface 7. The definition of rail head profile and tolerances
spalling) occurred at one of them (radius 350 m). As dis-
cussed in Section 5.1, small scale laboratory tests also The transverse rail head profile plays a major role in dic-
showed lubrication to be very significant with respect to the
tating the characteristics of wheel-rail interaction. Wheel-
development of rolling contact fatigue. These results confirm rail conicity, rail and wheel wear, contact stresses and rolling
what might be expected; however, to provide further evidence contact fatigue are all influenced by the transverse profiles of
of the significance of lubrication a further site trial is being the rail and wheel. Although not clearly established it seems
undertaken by British Rail Research in the UK.
highly probable that the initiation of rail rolling contact
Lubrication of rails in the UK is provided by track side
fatigue damage may be affected by the transverse rail head
machines and this allows the lubrication condition to be con-
profile of new rails. In rail standards of today (e.g. UIC 860-
trolled. As with the tests described above, both naturally hard
0)) the shape of the top part of the rail head is usually defined
and on-line, mill heat treated, head hardened rails
by three curved sections of differing radii. However, toler-
(370BHN), produced by British Steel Track Products, are
ances are not normally specified for this part of the profile.
being studied. The test site (800 m radius) is divided into
This area of weakness in specifications for new rail, and rails
three consecutive, equal length sections each of which con-
ground in-service, has been addressed in a theoretical study
tains the two rail types. The exit third of the test site has been
of the effect of small changes in profile on contact stresses
lubricated from installation of the rails, lubrication of the
and conicity which was undertaken by British Rail Research
middle third commenced following the observation of super-
ficial head checking and the entry third will remain unlubri-
In the BRR study the top part of the rail head profile was
cated throughout the experiment. An interim report on this
re-defined by a series of coordinate points joined by straight
work is being prepared by the ERR1 D173 Committee but as
lines. The UIC 60 exact rail head profile and a standard
yet it is not possible to form any definite conclusions,
slightly worn BR wheel profile were considered in the anal-
6.3. Grinding low contact stress rail head profiles
Cartesian and polar coordinate systems were studied and
the latter was found best to describe the rail head profile as it
A programme of work is being undertaken by Deutsche
avoided significant errors at the gauge comer and at the centre
Bundesbahn AG, Kik Engineering (Berlin) and Speno Inter- of the rail head.
national to study the effectiveness of in-service grinding of
Given that the exact profile is the one which is defined by
the rail head to reduce contact stresses and thereby the occur-
the three radii, it was found that small deviations from it had
rence of rolling contact fatigue damage.
little effect on wheel-rail conicity; however, significant
In the first part of the programme 95 rail head profiles were
changes to the wheel-rail contact stresses were predicted.
measured by DB AG at 23 locations on the west and east
Using variation of contact stresses as a basis for judgement,
Rhein lines in Germany. The rails at the 23 locations exhibited
it was found that a 31 point variable angle polar coordinate
varying degrees of head check damage and some were unda-
system (Fig. 14) described a profile similar to the “exact”
maged. All rails are the standard UIC 860 grade 900A.
one provided that the coordinate points were within about
In the second part of the programme the measured profiles,
0.05 mm of their true position. Equipment exists which will
appropriate track parameters and three vehicle types are being
measure to this accuracy e.g. [ 171 and it is suggested that
used by DB and Kik Engineering to predict wheel-rail contact
such a coordinate system could form the basis of a practical
conditions. The vehicles modelled in the curving analysis are
inspection procedure.
the El03 and El20 locomotives with 6 and 4 axles respec-
tively and also the Eurofirma passenger coach. The predicted
contact conditions, which include normal force, contact
stresses, contact positions, longitudinal, transverse and spin
creeps, are being compared with the head check damage
observed at the 23 locations. A DB 500 000 km average worn
wheel profile is being used in the analysis.
The data from this study, along with other theoretical work,
will be used to determine one or more low contact stress rail
head profiles to be ground at four of the locations. Existing
rail at three of the locations will be ground but at the fourth
new rail will be installed before grinding; half of the new rail Fig. 14. Definition of the upper part of the rail head profile using an unequal
will retain the as-rolled “UIC 60” profile and the other half angle, polar coordinate system. (From Ref. [ 161,)
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear 191(1996) 1-13 11

This theoretical study has drawn attention to the sensitivity

of contact stresses to the rail head crown profile and the need
to consider carefully tolerances which should be applied to
it. It is hoped to extend this work to cover more wheel-rail
profile combinations.

8. Review of modern developments in rail steel

Eight railways and seven producers have contributed

directly to this work. Based upon the contributor’s views, the
main aim of the review is to consider future railway requi-
rements and any probable developments.
Rolling contact fatigue, wear and corrugation remain a
major concern amongst the railways although improved
welding technology and the reduction of noise and vibration
are also considered to be important. Some further improve-
Fig. 15. Relationship between the K2 inclusion index (DIN 50 602) and
ments in material behaviour, including improved fatigue and
total oxygen. (From Ref. [ 181.)
wear resistance perhaps by micro alloying, are not ruled out
by the producers. Attention to improved rail head crown
profile control, improved rail head surface flatness and
smoothness are certainly seen as areas for possible develop-
ment. The introduction of automatic rail profile measurement
is almost universally recognised as necessary. Improved alu-
mino-thermic welding procedures and automatic (robotic)
welding methods are considered to be likely areas for increas-
ing weld performance. The production of rolled and installed ,030
rail lengths in excess of 120 m is clearly a means of reducing
weld numbers and hence improving reliability.
0 f
0 5 10 IS 20 a
9. Limits for non-metallic oxide inclusions and total Fig. 16. Relationship between total oxygen and the Sugino number. (From
oxygen in rails Ref. [18].)

General experience and the findings of the D173 review and continuously cast steel. The samples were taken from
[ 21 show that the presence of large non-metallic oxide inclu- current production of grade 900A rails as defined in the July
sions in a rail steel can play a significant part in the initiation 1986 edition of UIC standard 860-O. The test programme was
of subsurface rolling contact fatigue cracks. Specifying the coordinated by Sogerail (previously Unimetal) and results
cleanness of rail steels is therefore a means of reducing the are given in detail in [ 181.
risk of rolling contact fatigue. Acceptance limits for inclu- In the absence of a standard method for measuring total
sions and total oxygen are to form part of the new European oxygen one producer’s laboratory made all the measurements
Rails Standard and it was proposed that ERR1 D173 put using their technique. Briefly, this involves the use of a 4 mm
forward recommendations. transverse slice of the rail which is finished milled in an argon
It was recognised that since the introduction of rails pro- atmosphere following which a number of 6 mm diameter
duced without the use of aluminium for de-oxidisation along holes are punched. The punched samples are weighed and
with vacuum degassing and continuous casting the occur- comparisons made with reference materials.
rence of subsurface initiated rolling contact fatigue cracks Micro-inclusions were determined in the laboratories of
had diminished significantly. It was therefore assumed that four of the producers using the K-method given in DIN 50
adherence to “best practice” is a reasonable starting point 602. Both K2 and K3 values were determined.
for recommending the required limits on oxide inclusions and The total oxygen and micro-inclusion content as described
total oxygen. Sulphide inclusions, which in general are not by the DIN 50 602, K2 totals is shown in Fig. 15; this shows
considered to be harmful (see for example [ 21)) were not no correlation. The Sugino number was also calculated and
dealt with in the study. a comparison of it and total oxygen is shown in Fig. 16; this
Eight European manufactures submitted samples of rail indicates a slight trend.
steel for examination, of these six produced only continu- The results of this work supported the view that both total
ously cast steel, one only ingot cast steel and one both ingot oxygen and inclusion level should be specified in an attempt
12 D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear I91 (1996) I-13

to control steel cleanness. The recommendations are as fol- Residual stress measurements made using neutron scan-
lows. ning have shown that, in comparison with UIC grade 900A
Total oxygen: rails, higher, compressive near surface stresses are to be
less than 20 ppm for a minimum of 95% of the total number expected in head hardened rails following traffic loading.
of heats per year, These may also contribute to a higher fatigue resistance.
between 20 ppm than 30 ppm for a maximum of 5% of the The track test results suggest that lubrication of the rails
total number of heats per year. may encourage the development of head check cracks and
Inclusion limits: lead to spalling of the surface. Laboratory tests have also
(The values of K2 and K3 turned out to be very similar, thus shown that lubrication is highly significant with respect to
the easier K3 method was recommended) rolling contact fatigue.
K3 to be less than 10 for a minimum of 95% of the total Laboratory testing to simulate service rolling contact con-
number of heats per year ditions remains problematic. However, the long term nature
K3 to be between 10 and 20 for a maximum of 5% of the and expense of trials in revenue earning track supports the
total number of heats per year. view that service simulation in the laboratory remains highly
These recommendations have been passed to the European desirable. The development of such a facility or facilities will
group responsible for the drafting of the European Rails stan- be expensive in the short term and thus their realisation may
dard for consideration. require the commitment and collaboration of many national
and international bodies.
Rolling contact fatigue models are beginning to demon-
10. Discussion and conclusions strate the significance of some parameters which are poten-
tially controllable. The “steady state” stress condition, which
Some 20 years ago squats and head checking were hardly includes bending, thermal (continuously welded rail) and
recognised as problems within the European rail community. residual stresses, has been shown to be significant. Similarly,
The current UIC rail defect catalogue, published in 1979, tractive forces and fluid (lubricant or water) entrapment can
makes no specific reference to these defects, but today, rolling be shown to be important factors in the development of
contact fatigue, initiated at or near to the running surface of cracks.
rails, presents amajor threat to the integrity of modern railway The influence of the rail head crown profile on contact
systems. In the past, solutions to many rail defect problems stresses has been studied and it has been shown that small
have been relatively obvious, even though it may have been variations can have large effects. The development of
difficult to achieve them, for example bolt hole cracking- improved measurement and control systems for this sensitive
delete the bolt holes, tache ovalesi-reduce hydrogen con- area of the rail are required.
tent. At the moment there appears to be no single solution to The current ERR1 D173 programme is about two thirds
the rolling contact fatigue problem; a combination of devel- complete and various proposals are under consideration for
opments and actions are more likely to be required. The ERR1 its extension. At its conclusion it is hoped that enough of the
D173 research programme recognises this and has conse- jig-saw pieces will be in place have to have achieved some
quently progressed along a broad front. improvement of our understanding of the rail rolling contact
One of the outstanding results of the Committee’s review fatigue problem and how it can be controlled and perhaps
of rolling contact fatigue was the variation and/or confusion eliminated.
of terminology used to describe or classify rolling contact
fatigue damage. The current revision of the UIC Rail Defect
Catalogue will include the basic concept and classification of
surface and subsurface initiated cracks and this should help
resolve the problem.
Track tests have shown that modern heat treated carbon- The authors of the paper are indebted to all of their cowork-
manganese steels, possessing a high degree of cleanness, ers for their commitment to the objectives of the ERRI D173
good ductility and toughness, are more wear resistant than research programme. The programme has been undertaken
the “normal” UIC grade 900A steel and appear to be more with the financial support of the Union Internationale des
resistant to the propagation of surface initiated rolling contact Chemin de Fer, and the commitment of the UIC Sub-Com-
fatigue such as head checks. Small scale laboratory rolling mittee 7G, and its past and present chairmen, Dr Naue and
contact fatigue tests have yielded similar results. The cyclic Prof. Fendrich, are gratefully acknowledged. Technical and
stress-strain behaviour of a head hardened rail steel shows administrative support for the programme has been provided
that improved low and high cycle fatigue resistance is likely; by the European Rail Research Institute and both authors
this is confirmed by strain-life relationships. thank the Director, Dr Korpanec, for his support and permis-
sion to publish this paper. Mr Cannon also wishes to thank
’The so-called tache ovale (or “kidney”) failure is a rail head subsurface the BRB Director Technical Standards (now Railtrack) and
initiated fatigue crack and its origin is usually a hydrogen shatter crack. the Director, ERR1 for their financial support and the Direc-
D.F. Cannon, H. Pradier/ Wear I91 (1996) l-13 13

tor, British Rail Research for permission to present and pub- [8] Rolling contact fatigue: energy studies concerning crack formation and
lish this paper. wear in rails, ERRI Committee 0173 Rep. 10, Utrecht, in press.
191 Fatigue tests on head-checked rails and service performance
predictions ERR1 Committee 0173 Rep. 6, Utrecht, November 1993.
[lo] B.J. Dabell, S.J. Hill and P. Watson, An evaluation of the fatigue
Appendix A. Questions and answers performance of conventional British rail steels, in D.H. Stone and G.G.
Knupp (eds.), ASTM STP 644, American Society for Testing and
Materials, Philadelphia, PA, 1978.
Question (A. Kapoor): Owing to running, the rail wheel
[ 111 Track tests on naturally hard and head hardened test rails-first interim
profiles undergoes a change (as a result of plastic flow). Why
report, ERRI Commirtee D173 Rep. 3, Utrecht, January 1993.
is it, then, important to control the initial profile, when the [ 121 Track tests on naturally hard and head hardened test rails-second
final profiles are going to be different? interim report, ERR1 Committee D173 Rep. 13, Utrecht, in press.
Answer (D.F. Cannon): It is true that the rail crown profile [ 131 K. Wick, H.R. Muster and H. Schmedders, Rail rolling contact
fatigue--the performance of naturally hard and head hardened rails in
will change when exposed to traffic loads; however, when
track, Proc. 4th lnt. Co@ on Contact Mechanics and Wear of Rail/
naturally hard rails of 260-280 Brine11 hardness and, more Wheel Systems, Vancouver, Canada, July 1994, in Wear, 191 ( 1996)
particularly, head hardened rails of 35mOO Brine11 are used, 5464.
this process of change may be very slow. The production of [ 141 Residual stress measurements on naturally hard and head hardened
rails with very shallow, if any, decarburized layer will also rails by neutron diffraction, ERRI Commiftee 0173 Rep. 4, Utrecht,
January 1993.
reduce the rate of change in the profile. If the crown profile
[ 151 Non-destructive measurement of longitudinal residual stresses in rails
is such that higher than usual contact stresses occur, fatigue using ultrasonic methods, ERRI Commirree 0173 Rep. 12, Utrecht. in
damage, and possible early cracking, could occur. Propaga- press.
tion of these cracks could continue even when the crown [ 161 Definition of rail head profiles and tolerances, ERRl Committee 0173
profile has adopted a more conformal shape. Thus, the control Rep. 9, Utrecht, in press.

of the initial profile is thought to be of importance. [ 171 C. Esveld, In track quality control and assessment of rails, in KaIker,
Cannon and Orringer (eds.), Rail Quality and Maintenance for
Question (F. Mau): What were the size of samples utilized Modern Railway Operation, Kluwer, 1993.
in neutron testing of residual stresses in rails? What were [ 181 Rail steel cleanness assessment and recommended limits, ERRl
typical stresses found? Committee D173 Rep. 7, in press.
Answer (D.F. Cannon): Some measurements were made
in full section rail samples of about 600 mm length. However,
to reduce the neutron beam path length in the steel, and hence Biographies
save time and expense, longitudinal residual stresses were
measured on the rail’s axis of symmetry in plates which had David F. Cannon: trained and qualified (C. Eng) as a
a thickness and height equal to that of the web thickness and mechanical engineer with the Aero Division of Rolls-Royce.
rail height respectively. These plates were also about 600 mm He joined the British Railways Research Department in 1967
in length. Vertical and transverse stresses were measured in and worked on structural integrity problems with a specialis-
transverse slices of about 10-15 mm thickness.Residual ation in track components. He was appointed Deputy Head
stresses of up to about two thirds the proof stress of rail tracks of the Strength of Materials Unit in 1986 and Consultant in
were measured. the Civil Engineering Group ( 1993) and Structures Group
(1994). He left British Rail in December 1994 and is now
engaged in consultancy work. He is a Past Chairman of the
References BSI Fatigue Testing Committee and the European Structural
Integrity Society Committee on Conventional Dynamic Frac-
[l] W.H. Hodgson, Rail metallurgy and processing, in Kalker, Cannon ture Testing and, since 1987, Chairman of the European Rail
and Orringer (eds.), Rail Quality and Maintenance for Modern
Research Institute Committee D173 Rail Rolling Contact
Railway Operation, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1993.
[2] Review of rolling contact fatigue in rails, ERR1 Commiftee D173 Rep.
1, Utrecht, April 1990.
[ 3] Stress analysis of rail rolling contact fatigue cracks-interim report Henri Pradier: is a civil engineer (ENSPM, Geophysics).
(1988-92), ERR1 Committee 0173 Rep. 11, Utrecht, to be published. He entered service with SNCF in 1964 as a District Inspector
[4] S. Bogdanski, M. Olzak and J. Stupnicki, Simulation of crack growth
and then District Permanent Way Superintendent responsible
in rails due to transient load, Proc. 4th In?. Con& on ContactMechanics
and Wear of Rail/Wheel Systems, Vancouver, Canada, July 1994, in
for track maintenance, structures and buildings (in particular
Wear, 191 ( 1996) 14-24. increasing the speed of an entire line). Later he took up the
[S] Laboratory tests concerning the rolling contact fatigue behaviour of position of Research Engineer in SNCF’s Department of Civil
UIC 860 grade 9OOA rail steel and of head hardened rails (HB 340 Engineering dealing mainly with maintenance problems
and 370), ERRI Committee D173 Rep. 5, Utrecht, to be published.
linked to the opening of the TGV South-East line. He has
[6] Laboratory tests on as-rolled grade 9OOa rails and on 340/370 BHN
head hardened rails, ERRI Commiftee 0173 Rep. 2, Utrecht, 1990.
been ERRI Technical Advisor since 1985 and particularly
[7] P. Clayton and D.N. Hill, Rolling contact fatigue of a rail steel, Wear, involved in the work of research committees dealing with
117 (1987) 319-334. questions relating to structures and rails.