In recent years wheel impact loads have become a very important topic in the railroad industry due to operational and safety concerns. Much attention has been given to the level of condemnable wheel impact load as determined by wayside detection systems, and to the root causes of tread defects that lead to these wheel impacts. This paper describes physical testing of a wheelset in an instrumented drop hammer system to examine the effects of impact loading on resultant stress levels at various locations on a wheel’s surface. The drop hammer, typically used for evaluation of draft gears, is located at ASF-Keystone in Camp Hill, PA, and can impart dynamic loads up to a maximum of 2,000 kips, which is well in excess of typical wheel impact loads recorded by wayside impact detection systems. Impact loads for drop hammer wheel testing were generally confined to a maximum of approximately 200 kips. Finite element analysis (FEA) modeling using only mechanical tread loading was conducted to determine the high stress locations for the wheel design and to correlate strain gauge results for static loading on the wheel. The instrumented drop hammer used for wheel impact testing is described, and wheel strain gauge issues are discussed. Vertical split rim wheel failures are described and are briefly reviewed. The implications of impact loading for vertical split rim wheel failures are discussed and recommendations for future work are offered.

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