Two approaches are commonly used for solving the problem of wheel/rail contact in railroad dynamics. The first is the elastic approach in which the wheel is assumed to have six degrees of freedom with respect to the rail. The normal contact forces are defined using Hertz’s contact theory or in terms of assumed stiffness and damping coefficients. The second approach is the constraint approach in which nonlinear kinematic contact constraint equations are introduced, leading to a model in which the wheel has five degrees of freedom with respect to the rail. It is the objective of this investigation to present a new formulation for the wheel/rail contact problem based on the elastic force approach. Crucial to the success of any elastic force formulation for wheel/rail contact problem is the accurate prediction of the location of the contact points. To this end, features of multibody formulations that allow introducing arbitrary differential equations are exploited in this investigation in order to obtain a good estimate of the rail arc length traveled by the wheel set. In the formulation presented in this paper, four surface parameters are used to describe the wheel and the rail surfaces each with arbitrary geometry. In order to determine the location of the points of contact between the wheel and the rail, a first order differential equation for the rail arc length is introduced and is integrated simultaneously with the multibody equations of motion of the wheel/rail system. The method presented in this paper allows for multiple points of contact between the wheel and the rail by using an optimized search for all possible contact points. The normal contact forces are calculated and used with non-linear expressions for the creepages to determine the creep forces. The paper also discusses two different procedures for the analysis of the two-point contact in the wheel/rail interaction. Numerical results obtained using the elastic force model are presented and compared with the results obtained using the constraint approach.

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