The Wheel Defect Prevention Research Consortium (WDPRC) conducted an analysis pertaining to the fatigue cracking of wheel treads by incorporating the effects of residual stresses, temperature, and wheel/rail contact stress. Laboratory fatigue tests were conducted on specimens of wheel tread material under a variety of conditions allowing the analysis to properly account for the residual stresses accumulated in normal operating conditions. Existing literature was used in the analysis in consideration of the effects of contact stress and residual stress relief. This project was performed to define a temperature range in which the life of an AAR Class C wheel is not shortened by premature fatigue and shelling. Wayside wheel thermal detectors are becoming more prevalent on North American railroads as a means of identifying trains, cars, and wheels with braking issues. Yet, from a wheel fatigue perspective, the acceptable maximum operating temperature remains loosely defined for AAR Class C wheels. It was found that residual compressive circumferential stresses play a key role in protecting a wheel tread from fatigue damage. Therefore, temperatures sufficient to relieve residual stresses are a potential problem from a wheel fatigue standpoint. Only the most rigorous braking scenarios can produce expected train average wheel temperatures approaching the level of concern for reduced fatigue life. However, the variation in wheel temperatures within individual cars and between cars can result in temperatures high enough to cause a reduction in wheel fatigue life.

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