Light Rail Transit Vehicles

Slippage may result in rail burns during both acceleration and braking and wheel flats during braking. Light rail vehicles have always been equipped with sanders, activated by the operator to drop dry sand on the rail and thereby increase friction between wheel and rail. Modern vehicles with slip/slide detection will also automatically dispense sand when required. Sand will therefore accumulate along steeply graded tracks and also in station areas. The sand will mix and bond with other contaminants on the trackway (including rail lubricants and friction modifiers) and wash downgrade to the lowest points on the track structure. Ideally, the track design should provide for this contamination to wash away harmlessly before it can become a path for stray currents and corrosion, but a comprehensive housekeeping program to keep accumulated sand from becoming a problem is generally necessary. Combinations of steep gradients, small radius horizontal curves, and sharp vertical curves are found on many light rail lines. One LRT line in the eastern United States has an 82-foot [25 meter] horizontal curve on a down grade of 6% followed by a sag vertical curve with a radius of about 1640 feet [500 meters]. At the other end of that vertical curve is a short up grade of 7% leading to a crest vertical curve followed by the junction turnout to another route. Legacy streetcar lines often had alignments that were even more convoluted. While such tortuous track alignments are possible, they tax the capabilities of the vehicle, slow down transit operation, require much higher than normal maintenance, are usually sources of high noise and vibration, and cause poor ride quality. They therefore are generally not recommended unless absolutely nothing better is possible within the project budget. The track alignment designer should work closely with all other project disciplines, including the vehicle engineers, so as to be certain that any complicated track alignments do not create any intractable problems for other members of the design team. 2.4.5 Maximum Allowable Track Twist Truck equalization refers to the changes in individual wheel loading that occur when one wheel on a two-axle truck moves above or below the plane of the other three wheels. If a wheel is unloaded significantly, it may climb the rail and derail. The truck needs to be sufficiently limber so as to maintain roughly equal vertical load on all four wheels regardless of any such twist and avoid unloading. Several situations can result in twist that can unload one wheel of a truck: • • • Misalignments in the track surface such as a low rail joint that has dropped some measurable distance below the plane of the rails. Track superelevation transitions where the profile of one rail is rising relative to the other. Deliberate twist in tangent or curved track such as an embedded track section where normally crowned pavement (required for drainage) transitions to either a level or superelevated section.

LRV truck equalization must be compatible with the maximum expected track vertical surface misalignment to prevent conditions that can cause a derailment. The following is a typical


Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

specification for the maximum wheel unloading when one wheel is leaving the horizontal plane— such as when being lifted by the outer rail on spiral curve with superelevation: Lifting or lowering any wheel on a truck 38 mm (1.5 inches) shall not cause the load to change on any wheel of that truck by more than 50% with the vehicle on level tangent track and under an AW0 load. Loss of contact shall not result between any of the wheels and the rail when raising or lowering one wheel on a truck up to 50 mm (2 inches).[9] The dimensions above provide a considerable factor of safety so as to avoid routinely loading the truck to its mechanical limits and are unlikely to occur in track. For example, an LRV truck with axle centers of 6 feet [about 1.8 meters] that is negotiating a spiral with a superelevation raise rate of 0.20% (about ¾ inch in 31 feet or 19 mm in 9.45 meters), will have the leading outside wheel raised by only 0.15 inches [4 mm]. Even if the track surface had substantially deteriorated, it is unlikely that track twist over the length of a truck would ever be more than ¾ inch [19 mm]. However, the equalization parameters above are for a static test. A vehicle operating at track speed will not be as limber; therefore, track twist must be restricted. The allowable twist is usually expressed either as a percentage as noted above or as a ratio y:x. with y being an amount of superelevation and x being the length over which it is achieved, using the same units for both. A common limit is 1:400 as in 1 inch of superelevation in 400 inches/33.33 feet [roughly 25 mm in 10 meters]. However, some low-floor vehicle manufacturers have requested 1:500 as a track twist design limit. One U.S. transit agency that was having problems with center truck derailments on their partial low-floor LRV has established a maintenance standard of approximately 1:425. These ratios sharply contrast with the capabilities of legacy rolling stock with more limber truck designs. The PCC car, which was deliberately designed to operate on abysmal track, can deal with track twist of about 1:150. More to the point, the new twist limit figures are more restrictive than one of the formulas that has traditionally been used for determining minimum spiral lengths for LRT. That topic is discussed at length in Chapter 3, Article 3.2.5; however, the point to be made here is that track designers should obtain specific information from their peers on the vehicle side of the project regarding acceptable values of track twist. Ideally, the vehicle designers should provide three figures: • • • A desirable twist ratio for track design. A minimum twist ratio for track maintenance. (This would be somewhat less restrictive and indicate the point at which corrective track surfacing should be undertaken.) An absolute minimum twist ratio to be used as a safety limit. This value, which may be speed dependent, would indicate that possible derailment is imminent unless corrective actions (either resurfacing of the track, speed reductions, or both) are taken.

“Jump frogs” as described in Chapter 6, Article 6.6.6, are becoming a popular item for seldomused diverging movements at special trackwork and were once very common on legacy streetcar lines. These will raise one wheel of the truck a dimension equal to the height of the wheel flange, typically 1 inch [25 mm]. Operation over the diverging side of such frogs must be done at very slow speed so that the vehicle suspension system has time to respond to the truck equalization


Light Rail Transit Vehicles

requirements. If jump frogs are proposed on an LRT project, that fact should be clearly identified in the vehicle procurement documents. 2.4.6 Light Rail Vehicle Ride Quality Light rail vehicle ride quality is defined in typical North American specifications as the capability to operate, at any speed up to the vehicle’s maximum operating speed (MOS) and at any passenger loading, free from vibration and shocks, to the specified levels. Vehicle Natural Frequency as a Factor in Ride Comfort All of the light rail vehicle’s equipment is required to be free from resonance. To achieve this, resonances must be damped, and the natural resonance frequencies of the carbody must be sufficiently removed from the secondary suspension resonance frequency. Most vehicle specifications include language such as the following: The carbody natural frequency shall be 2.5 times the secondary suspension natural frequency. Vehicle specifications usually require that a dynamic and ride quality model should be developed using programs such as NUCARS or VAMPIRE and performance be proven via model predictions. The ride quality is evaluated according to ISO 2631, Mechanical vibration and shock—Evaluation of human exposure to whole-body vibration—Part 1: General requirements, Figures 2a-Vertical and 3a Horizontal.[13] In this case, the appropriate limit is the 8-hour fatigue limit to which the transit vehicle operator might be exposed. Transit patrons can be exposed to higher limits, as their exposure time would be considerably shorter. Note that the vehicle operator could be exposed to higher levels of vibration at the nose of the car than the patron would be at the center of the car. The ride quality is tested with a vehicle in good operating condition, with new wheels on tangent track that has been maintained to a class appropriate for the test speed, at vehicle crush loading of AW3. For this condition, the accelerations experienced by the passenger should generally not exceed 0.315 m/sec2 [about 1.0 ft/sec2], which is equal to 0.03 g. Another test, with air suspension deflated, is performed to confirm safe train operations under a partial failure condition and should not exceed 0.620 m/sec2 [about 2.0 ft/sec2] or 0.06 g. ISO 2631 does not specify specific test procedures. In the case of DMUs procured for one project, the tests were performed according to a European standard: UIC 518, Test and Acceptance of Railway Vehicles from the Point of View of Dynamic Behavior, Safety Against Derailment, Track Fatigue, and Quality of Ride.[14] This standard determines vehicle compliance considering track alignment design, track geometry, and related operating conditions such as the cant deficiency and speed. Track Geometrics as a Factor in Ride Comfort See Chapter 3, Article 3.2.4 for an extensive discussion concerning ride comfort as a factor in determination of characteristics of curved track, including speed, radius, superelevation, and spiral length.


Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

2.5 VEHICLE STRUCTURAL LOADS 2.5.1 Static Vertical Loads ASME RT-1[8] defines light rail vehicle weights as follows: • AW0: Empty load: the weight of the vehicle ready to run with all mounted components, including full operating reserves of lubricants, windshield fluid, etc., but without crew and passenger load. AW1: Fully seated load: AW0 plus the crew and fully seated passenger load. AW2: System load: AW1 plus 4 passengers per meter2 [3.3 per yd2] in standing areas. AW3: Crush load: AW1 plus 6 passengers per meter2 [5.0 per yd2] in standing areas. AW4: Structural load: AW1 plus 8 passengers per meter2 [6.7 per yd2] in standing areas.

• • • •

The mass of each passenger and crew member is stipulated as being 70 kg [154 lb], a figure that seems low at first glance, but makes allowances for children as well as adults of various statures. The AW4 loading is an extraordinary condition used only for the design of undertrack structures. 2.5.2 Wheel Loading Tolerance (Car Level) While most light rail vehicles appear to be completely symmetrical at first glance, the arrangement of various parts of the underfloor and rooftop equipment means that the actual loads applied to each truck will vary. A typical vehicle specification includes the tolerances related to overall weight distribution between the three or more trucks and the maximum acceptable wheel load variation per truck basis.[2] While the numbers will vary, the following text is typical of the language found in vehicle procurement specifications for a three-truck articulated vehicle: • • • The vehicle weight supported at center truck shall be within the range of 25 to 30% of the total vehicle weight The difference in vehicle weight between the A end and the B end trucks shall not exceed 450 kg (1000 lb) The lateral imbalance (wheel to wheel at the same axle, and expressed as a moment rotating vertically about the center of the axle) shall not exceed 100 kg-m (8500 in-lb)

2.5.3 Wheel Loading at Maximum Stationary Superelevation Worst-case wheel/rail force is expected when a fully loaded (AW3) car stops on a maximum superelevated track structure. Car tilt will also add to the lateral and vertical forces on the lower rail. The vehicle’s center of gravity projection when stationary on the maximum superelevation must be within the gauge of the tracks with a sufficient margin of safety. Typical practice is to keep it within the middle third of the track gauge; see Chapter 3, Article 2.5.4 Unsprung Mass Unsprung weight in the LRV trucks is a significant contributing factor to dynamic track loading and ground-borne vibration as these items are not isolated from the track by the vehicle’s primary and 2-30

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

secondary suspension systems. The use of resilient wheels theoretically reduces unsprung mass to only the weight of the tire; however, the elastomeric elements of resilient wheels still need to be fairly stiff so as to keep the tire both circular and concentric with the axle. Hence, until relatively recent times, the axle and the gearbox were effectively unsprung mass. Modern truck designs achieve further isolation of the traction motor and gearbox unit by resiliently installing them on the truck frame and having the axle floating in the gearbox’s hollow output shaft, relying on a flexible coupling (“dog bones”) to transmit torque to the wheel set.[3] The resilient wheel reduces truck shock and vibration, which is generally beneficial, but does introduce a resonance of the wheel set within the tire with a frequency of about 50 to 100Hz. The interaction among track stiffness, tire, wheel set, and truck frame is quite complicated and may vary considerably with design. This can be important with respect to track vibration isolation design. 2.5.5 Truck Design Light rail vehicle truck design has evolved appreciably since the light rail renaissance of the 1990s. The trucks on those early vehicles incorporated many features that had been successfully employed on heavy rail metro vehicles—such as monomotor design (i.e., both axles powered by a single motor, rather than one motor per axle)—that proved to be ill-suited for light rail vehicles operating on very sharp radius curves. Current designs build on that experience and provide much better performance (including a significant margin of safety against derailment) due to the following features: • Shorter wheelbase (spacing between axles), which generally facilitates curving but can increase the angle of attack in a curve. (All other things being equal, a longer wheelbase truck will require wider flangeways and wider track gauge than a truck with a short wheelbase.) Longitudinally resilient axle mountings/primary suspension with resilient metal inserts. Resilient axle mounts in the transverse direction to reduce the impact upon entering the curve. Reduced unsprung masses—resilient wheels and drive units. Very low turning resistance due to being connected to the carbody with a ball bearing slewing ring and king pin without side plates.

• • • • Motorized Trucks Since the late 1990s, conventional power trucks have almost exclusively used AC traction motors and parallel helical gear units. These replaced the DC monomotors and hypoid gears commonly used on light rail vehicles up through the early 1990s. Figure 2.5.1 illustrates a typical power truck such as might be used under either a high-floor LRV or a 70% low-floor LRV. Features shown include AC motors and parallel gear units that are fully suspended resiliently on the truck frame, resilient wheels, chevron primary and air spring secondary suspensions, center king pin connection to carbody underframe, disk brake installed on the gear exit shaft, track brakes, trainto-wayside and cab signaling antennas, and on-board wheel flange lubrication.


Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

The power trucks beneath 100% low-floor cars are much more sophisticated since they require room for the low-floor passenger cabin to pass between the wheels and truck frame. Figure 2.5.2 illustrates an outside frame truck design for narrow gauge track with the motors mounted longitudinally outboard of and between the wheels. The design powers both wheels on each side of the truck from a single motor, appreciably changing the way the truck interacts with the track compared with a conventional solid axle power truck. Figure 2.5.3 illustrates a low-floor power truck with conventional solid axles. This design utilizes small diameter wheels—600 mm [23.6 inches], roughly 100 to 110 mm [about 4 to 4.5 inches] smaller than the wheels used on most LRV trucks. The carbuilder also places the floor in the articulation module higher than the floor in the main body sections, with a ramp between the areas. Figures 2.5.2 through 2.5.3 are only a few of the many designs of low-floor power trucks that are on the market as of 2010. Some other designs utilize even more radical features such as individual “hub-mounted” motors on each wheel. The state of the art is advancing rapidly and truck designs such as those illustrated here may well become obsolete. The reader is encouraged to review current trade publications and literature available on manufacturers’ websites for up-to-date information specific to the vehicles under consideration for a project.

Figure 2.5.1 Kinki Sharyo power truck for 70% LRV