In the railroad industry, distressed bearings in service are primarily identified using wayside hot-box detectors (HBDs). Current technology has expanded the role of these detectors to monitor bearings that appear to “warm trend” relative to the average temperatures of the remainder of bearings on the train. Several bearings set-out for trending and classified as nonverified, meaning no discernible damage, revealed that a common feature was discoloration of rollers within a cone (inner race) assembly. Subsequent laboratory experiments were performed to determine a minimum temperature and environment necessary to reproduce these discolorations and concluded that the discoloration is most likely due to roller temperatures greater than 232 °C (450 °F) for periods of at least 4 h. The latter finding sparked several discussions and speculations in the railroad industry as to whether it is possible to have rollers reaching such elevated temperatures without heating the bearing cup (outer race) to a temperature significant enough to trigger the HBDs. With this motivation, and based on previous experimental and analytical work, a thermal finite element analysis (FEA) of a railroad bearing pressed onto an axle was conducted using ALGOR 20.3™. The finite element (FE) model was used to simulate different heating scenarios with the purpose of obtaining the temperatures of internal components of the bearing assembly, as well as the heat generation rates and the bearing cup surface temperature. The results showed that, even though some rollers can reach unsafe operating temperatures, the bearing cup surface temperature does not exhibit levels that would trigger HBD alarms.

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