Component failure in bolsters and side frames remains a problem for both railroads and suppliers, causing expensive repairs and even derailments. To understand and combat this problem, an evaluation of the steel was required.

Bolsters were obtained from several suppliers to evaluate the current state of Association of American Railroads (AAR) M-201 standard for Grade B+ cast steel. Charpy impact and tensile test samples were machined from critical areas of these castings and tested at an independent laboratory. Distinct differences were found in processes and in mechanical properties between some suppliers. Supplier names are not identified in this paper.

Based on the chemical and mechanical testing results and data analysis, changes to AAR M-201 Grade B+ requirements have been proposed. Additional bolsters have been obtained for further testing. These bolsters will incorporate the proposed changes to the standard and the same mechanical testing will be performed on them to determine the effectiveness of the proposed changes. Full scale static or fatigue testing will be conducted on additional bolsters.

A survey of scrapped bolsters and side frames from several railcar producers and reclaim operations was conducted to determine the leading causes of failures of components removed from service. These results form the basis for a database that can be used to identify failure trends.

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