Thermal track buckling is probably the major problem due to the advent of continuous welded rail track. In fact, when the rails temperature rises over a critical value, the track can buckle, suddenly or progressively, in the lateral plane. Both poor ballast conditions and large lateral alignment defects are the principal causes of such phenomenon.
In a previous paper, a parametric finite element model for thermal track buckling simulation was presented and validated by comparison with analytical results of the literature. In this study, the finite element model has been further validated by comparison with analytical and numerical results obtained by three other authors.
Moreover, to take into account the effect on the buckling temperatures of the vertical loads due to train passes, the tie-ballast lateral resistance has been modified along the track, taking into account the vertical reaction forces distribution induced by axle loads.
A sensitivity analysis has been carried out both for tangent and curved track, considering two values of the alignment defect amplitude, and different values of the parameters that characterize actual railway vehicles.
It is found that the conditions to trigger progressive buckling (△Tmax ≈ △Tmin) are attained with small values of the truck center distance, and in a more accentuated manner in the presence of high values of the lateral alignment defect.
△Tmax and △Tmin increase with axle spacing, and this increase is more pronounced for low values of the truck center spacing. △Tmax and △Tmin also increase with curve radius, but decrease for increasing values of the misalignment defect amplitude.
In explosive buckling conditions (△Tmax ≠ △Tmin), there is a limit value of the truck center distance above which the vertical load has no more effects, and the results of the static thermal buckling are found.