Wheel shelling is the cause of a large portion of high impact wheels. The impact loads produced by shelled wheels can have a damaging effect on track components and rolling stock components such as roller bearings. Shelling is the result of accumulated rolling contact fatigue (RCF) on the wheel tread surface. To investigate the specific conditions in which RCF occurs, wheel load environment data was collected from a car with three-piece trucks running in revenue service. This data was analyzed in order to assess the predicted wheel RCF through the use of shakedown theory. An inspection team was dispatched to several track sites to record relevant information including a visual assessment of rail RCF, rail transverse profile, rail age, and friction conditions. Track inspections were conducted at locations where RCF was predicted and at nearby locations with similar curvature where RCF was not predicted. Conclusions from this work are the following: • The curve unbalance condition, which is a combination of curvature, track superelevation, and train speed, is an important factor in RCF. • Wheel/rail coefficient of friction in curves can be a factor in RCF. • Rail profile and track condition were not found to be major factors in this analysis. • Observed rail RCF condition correlated reasonably well with predictions when considering extenuating factors such as rail age and curve unbalance conditions. • Confidence was increased in previous simulation results involving three-piece trucks due to good correlation with the results of the current work. The simulation results suggest that the use of AAR approved M-976 trucks should reduce RCF. This work was funded by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Wheel Defect Prevention Research Consortium (WDPRC), a group that includes railroads, private car owners, and industry suppliers.

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