R3.101 New Wheel Steels, Residual Stress and Defect Tolerance

Railway wheels are subjected to stresses that make them one of the most maintenance-intensive components of a railway. Research conducted by the previous CRC (CRC for Railway Engineering and technologies) uncovered a technique for treating rail wheel steel which promises to impart superior mechanical and metallurgical properties when compared to conventional wheel steels.

The micro-structure of selected steel can be transformed to provide improved properties and the challenge for the research project is to produce test wheels to validate the research findings under real world conditions. Several years will be required to prove the concepts in practice. Then the next step would be to develop a commercial method for producing the improved steel wheels.

Project Status:

The primary objective of the project was to develop the application of low carbon bainitic-martensitic (heat treated) steels to provide sample rail wheels with superior cost effectiveness.These new wheels may resist the fatigue cracks which plague non-treated wheels and they may run longer and truer before requiring maintenance machining. Should all the benefits of the research be established over time, then railroad operators, rollingstock owners and track owners would have an improved product with better performance and economy.


Benefits will potentially flow from an anticipated longer life for rail wheels and less maintenance costs to other parts of the rail line as the harder steel will create less damage to the rail track.
Further potential costs savings could also extend to nationally significant industries reliant on rail, such as resources and export industries. With less damage to track and a longer lasting rail wheel, non-financial benefits such as increased productivity could also be a reasonable expectation.