The railroad industry utilizes wayside detection systems to monitor the temperature of freight railcar bearings in service. The wayside hot-box detector (HBD) is a device that sits on the side of the tracks and uses a non-contact infrared sensor to determine the temperature of the train bearings as they roll over the detector. Various factors can affect the temperature measurements of these wayside detection systems. The class of the railroad bearing and its position on the axle relative to the position of the wayside detector can affect the temperature measurement. That is, the location on the bearing cup where the wayside infrared sensor reads the temperature varies depending on the bearing class (e.g., class K, F, G, E). Furthermore, environmental factors can also affect these temperature readings. The abovementioned factors can lead to measured temperatures that are significantly different than the actual operating temperatures of the bearings. In some cases, temperature readings collected by wayside detection systems did not indicate potential problems with some bearings, which led to costly derailments. Attempts by certain railroads to optimize the use of the temperature data acquired by these wayside detection systems has led to removal of bearings that were not problematic (about 40% of bearings removed were non-verified), resulting in costly delays and inefficiencies. To this end, the study presented here aims to investigate the efficacy of the wayside detection systems in measuring the railroad bearing operating temperature in order to optimize the use of these detection systems. A specialized single bearing dynamic test rig with a configuration that closely simulates the operating conditions of railroad bearings in service was designed and built by the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS) research team at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) for the purpose of this study. The test rig is equipped with a system that closely mimics the wayside detection system functionality and compares the infrared sensor temperature reading to contact thermocouple and bayonet temperature sensors fixed to the outside surface of the bearing cup. This direct comparison of the temperature data will provide a better understanding of the correlation between these temperatures under various loading levels, operating speeds, and bearing conditions (i.e. healthy versus defective), which will allow for an optimization of the wayside detectors. The impact on railway safety will be realized through optimized usage of current wayside detection systems and fewer nonverified bearings removed from service, which translates into fewer costly train stoppages and delays.

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