A new scaled testing methodology for the analysis of rolling contact fatigue in railway steels.


Twin disc testing is a relatively cost effective and practical method of investigating the damage resistive properties of rail steels in a scaled environment. The loading conditions and dimensions used in testing are scaled in such a way that the Rolling Contact Fatigue (RCF) generated on a twin disc rig are representative of the conditions experienced at the full-scale. Typical methodologies to generate RCF on a twin disc rig involve the application of water to the contact patch throughout the test, with perhaps a few thousand dry cycles being run beforehand. This research explores the use of weather data to reflect the real-world contact conditions more accurately between a wheel and rail. Met Office weather data collected from 1981 to 2010 shows the average annual precipitation in the UK is around 133 days of rain or snow, which is nearly 36 % of the year. In this study, weather data was used to determine the ratio of wet to dry cycles in the testing methodology.  50k dry cycles are run in intervals of 5k and then transitioned to 25k of wet cycles, which is 30% of the total cycles. Intervals were kept at 5k so attaining 36%. If RCF is not initiated after the first 75k cycles, which ends with 25k wet cycles, then the same dry and wet cycles are repeated. RCF data generated using this methodology demonstrated expected differences in the RCF resistive properties of two rail steel grades, R260 and R350HT. In test 1 the point of initiation for each grade was not captured, though cracks were visible around the expected cycles to initiation, which was verified using optical microscopy. The cracks viewed on the softer R260 steel samples, ‘’260’’ referring to the Brinell hardness value of the steel, were more developed at 85k cycles and showed signs of spalling, whilst the cracks on the harder R350HT sample were much smaller. In test 2 the point of initiation was found for each grade. Optical microscopy was also used to show the depth and direction of head check cracks to ensure the damage viewed from the head was RCF and not plastic flow or cyclic wear. This paper shows the necessity for considering the number of wet cycles applied during twin disc testing and demonstrates it is possible to run a high number of wet cycles which are more representative of real-world conditions when generating RCF on twin disc rigs.  


Water, Weather, Cracks, Propagation, Friction Modifier, T-Gamma, Rolling contact fatigue, Rail steels, Twin disc rig, Scaled testing, Damage mechanism, Friction modifier, Coefficient of friction, Optical microscopy

How to Cite

Woodhead, D. H., (2023) “A new scaled testing methodology for the analysis of rolling contact fatigue in railway steels.”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 1(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/fields.1252


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Daniel Herbert Woodhead (University of Huddersfield)





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