This paper discusses the development of a state of the art single-wheel roller rig for studying contact mechanics and dynamics in railroad applications. The use of indoor-based simulation tools has become a mainstay in vehicle testing for the automotive and railroad industries. In contrast to field-testing, roller rigs offer a controlled laboratory environment that can provide a successful path for obtaining data on the mechanics and dynamics of railway systems for a variety of operating conditions. The idea to develop a laboratory test rig started from the observation that there is a need for better-developed testing fixtures capable of accurately explaining the relatively unknown physics of the wheel-rail contact mechanics and dynamics. Developing a better understanding of such physics would assist with designing faster, safer, and more efficient railroad systems. A review of the existing roller rigs indicated that many desired functional requirements for studying contact mechanics are not readily available. The Virginia Tech Railway Technologies Laboratory (RTL) has embarked on a mission to develop a state-of-the-art testing facility that will allow experimental testing for contact mechanics in a dynamic, controlled, and consistent manner. The VT roller rig is intended to allow for actively controlling all the wheel-rail interface degrees of freedom: cant angle, angle of attack, and lateral displacement. Two AC synchronous servomotors, accompanied with proper gearheads, accurately drive the rotating wheels. A novel force measurement system, suitable for steel on steel contact, is configured to precisely measure the contact forces and torques. The control architecture is developed based on the SynqNet data acquisition system offered by Kollmorgen, the drive-motor and actuator supplier. The Synqnet provides a unified communication protocol between actuators, drives, and data acquisition system; therefore eliminating any difficulty with data conversion among these units. Other auxiliary sensors and measurement systems are implemented to help with characterizing the contact mechanics and contact geometry. This paper will describe the main steps in the design process of the VT roller rig and the final design solution selected. It will also present the testing capabilities of the rig. The design analysis indicates that the rig can successfully meet the set requirements: additional accuracy in measurements, and better control on the design of experiments.

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