For predictive maintenance purpose, wheel and rail wear evolution models have been developed based on wheel rail contact force calculations. These models are known to assume the wheel rotating on a rigid rail. However recent developments have shown that the flexibility of the track plays an important role in wear evolution. On the other hand, vertical track stiffness variation along the track is known to exist and to affect the track flexibility. The present research work investigates the influence of non-uniform track modulus on the wheel rail contact forces using elasto-plastic explicit dynamic Finite Elements (FE). The FE model is composed of a quarter car model running on a rail supported by three cross-ties. The modulus of elasticity of the cross-ties is calibrated to produce the total track modulus of the railroad track infrastructure. Non-uniformity of the track is modeled by assigning distinct elasticity moduli to the cross-ties. The instantaneous contact physical parameters are extracted from FE models repetitively for various cross-tie modulus ratios. The results show that increase in cross-tie modulus variation results in increased fluctuation amplitudes of wheel-rail contact parameters such as force, stress and contact area. This effect leads to changes of the rate of material removal on the wheels and rails. This research work intends to incorporate the spatial variation of the railroad track stiffness into rail vehicle wheel and track wear prediction models.

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