In this work, a gouged section of 1080 railroad rail steel is examined using metallographic techniques to characterize the nature of the damage. The gouging was performed by a rocket sled at Holloman Air Force Base, riding on VascoMax 300 steel shoes at 2.1kms. The damaged rail is evaluated in detail to examine material phase changes, shear bands, and heat effects. The results are compared to samples of the virgin material, machined and prepared exactly as they are prior to the Holloman AFB High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) runs. The gouged section was examined using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscope (SEM), and other techniques. The resulting microstructure is presented and compared to the virgin material. Material mixing, shear band formation, and significant thermal damage, consistent with a high energy gouging event, are confirmed. In addition, the material phase change evident in this approach allows us to estimate the thermal conditions present during the formation of the gouge. This thermal history establishes a profile by which related research in gouge simulation can be validated against. A one-dimensional heat conduction model is presented that validates the cooling rates required to generate the presented microstructure.

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