Light Rail Transit Vehicles

2.6.4 Maintenance of the Wheel/Rail Interface When the first edition of the Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit was published, there had been relatively little investigation into the rail/wheel interaction under transit vehicle loadings. Since that time, there has been a good deal of investigation under the auspices of TCRP Project D-7, with the results published as a series of volumes collectively known as TCRP Report 71. As of 2011, the D-7 project is ongoing (and is expected to continue indefinitely), providing factual information specifically targeted at rail transit instead of conjectural extrapolations of the results of research done under freight railroad loading. Rail transit system maintenance procedures have come under increased scrutiny since 2000. As of this writing, the states are responsible for oversight of the process,[17] but federal oversight is increasing. Partially in response to this regulatory scrutiny, APTA has developed recommended practices for transit rail car maintenance, including wheels.[11], [12] Most rail transit systems are now following system-specific wheel management procedures, consistent with the APTA guidelines, with respect to inspection and maintenance of wheels including truing of worn wheels. New Jersey Transit has developed comprehensive standards for wheel maintenance that could be considered a model program. This program includes the following standards: • • • Wheel maintenance procedures are included in the System Safety Program as a mandatory requirement. Wheel wear conditions are checked with either a digital output hand-held profile gauge or on the truing machine as part of a mandatory daily vehicle inspection. Wheel reprofiling is performed either at fixed intervals—every 30,000 to 40,000 miles [48280 to 64374 km] depending on the truck design—or as periodic measurements indicate the need for corrective action. Intermediate wheel profiles are used as determined by software incorporated in the wheel truing machines. As many as 20 variants of corrective actions are recommended by the machine so as to minimize the removal of metal from the wheels.

With this program in place, New Jersey Transit has increased resilient wheel tire life dramatically, typically achieving 200,000 to 250,000 miles [322,000 to 402,000 km] of service before tire replacement is necessary. Maintenance of the track side of the wheel/rail interface, principally through a comprehensive program of rail grinding and strategic lubrication, is equally important. See Chapters 9 and 14 for discussions of these topics. 2.6.5 Matching Wheel and Rail Profiles Since wheels are a machined item and finished on a lathe, it is relatively easy to procure customized wheel contour designs to suit particular applications. The same flexibility is not available in the selection of rail profiles since rails are finished on a rolling mill. Further, of the roughly two dozen rail sections commonly available, only a very few are actually suitable for use by rail transit. However, wheel and rail profiles must be compatible, which generally means that the wheel profile needs to be detailed to conform to the as-rolled head profile of the selected rail.


Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

As with wheel profiles, the majority of the research and development work regarding rail head profiles and rail profile grinding has been undertaken by and for the railroad industry. While the transit industry can also benefit from this research, readers are cautioned that recommendations for heavy haul railroads are very often less than entirely applicable to the transit industry. The difference in maximum wheel load between a light rail vehicle and a fully loaded freight car can be a factor of 4 or 5. Because of this large difference, rails used in transit service will not be subjected to wheel forces of the magnitude exerted by freight cars. Therefore, theories of rail gauge corner fatigue, high L/V ratios, and the threat of rail rollover that pertain to freight railroads are generally less applicable on a transit system.[18] To illustrate the differences between conformal and non-conformal wheels, Figure 2.6.3 illustrates the 115 RE rail section used on contemporary LRT systems in conjunction with both the obsolete AAR wheel profile and the newer AAR-1B wheel profile. Note how the non-conformal two-point contact wheel/rail relationship of the non-conformal wheel transfers the vertical load from the gauge corner toward the centerline of the rail. This combination reduces the wheel radius at the contact location, which is detrimental to steering and introduces accelerated gauge face wear. In practice, the wheel gauge corner will tend to wear to the rail and vice versa, developing some modest conformal contact over the long term. However, as the system matures, normal maintenance will result in the introduction of new and freshly reprofiled wheels and replacement of worn rail with new rail, resulting in inconsistent wheel/rail contact. A mixture of rails and/or rail cant conditions on a single system will result in non-uniform rail profiles at the gauge corner and tend to frustrate achieving a systemwide stable gauge corner profile for the worn wheel. To improve wheel/rail interface contact on older systems, alternate wheel shapes may be considered. During the early design stage of new transit systems, transit wheel profiles should be considered that match or conform to the rail section(s) to be used on the system. In the process of wheel design, the design engineer must consider both the rail section(s) and the rail cant at which they will be fastened. For additional information on rail sections, refer to Chapter 5 of this Handbook. For additional information on rail cant selection and benefits, refer to Chapter 4, Article 4.2.5.

Figure 2.6.3 Wheel-rail interface


Light Rail Transit Vehicles

2.6.6 Wheel Tread Widths and Flangeways at Frogs When a wheel passes through a frog, the wheel tread must pass over the open throat of the intersecting flangeway. In an ordinary (not flange-bearing) frog, the load on the wheel will briefly transfer from the inner to the outer part of the wheel tread and then back again as the wheel passes over this gap. For this transfer to be smooth, the wheel tread must be appreciably wider than is required to support the wheel in ordinary track. See Chapter 6, Figures 6.6.1 and 6.6.2 for an illustration of how a wheel traverses a frog. The large value of freeplay between AAR wheel gauge and standard track gauge requires a wider flangeway opening through frogs and guard rail flangeways than when following transit standards. The wider flangeways allow larger lateral wheel movement, resulting in less wheel tread contact if the wheel set has shifted furthest from the gauge face of a frog point. If the wheel tread is too narrow, this condition results in hammering of the wing rail and the frog point due to insufficient tread support when the wheel transfers between the two components. Narrow wheels traversing the frog in a facing point direction lose the wing rail wheel support too early, resulting in premature transfer of wheel load to the narrowest portion of the frog point, resulting in batter and crushing of the frog point. In a trailing point orientation, the batter occurs on the wing rail instead of the frog point. To minimize these problems, the AAR standard wheel has an overall width of 5 23/32 inches [145.3 mm]. A wider wheel tread increases the weight of the wheel, thereby increasing the unsprung mass of the truck and impact forces by a small but measurable amount. Wide wheels can also abrade adjoining pavement in embedded track areas. A narrower overall wheel width is therefore desirable. The suggested minimum width for a transit system that shares its track with freight cars and hence needs to follow AREMA-recommended practices for flangeway widths, is 5 ¼ inches [133 millimeters]. This dimension includes a ¼-inch [6-millimeter] radius at the field side of the wheel tread. Wheels that are narrower cannot be used with railroad standard flangeways and wheel gauges as doing so will lead to improper wheel traverse through special trackwork components. Reduction of both flangeway widths and wheel widths is possible in special trackwork that does not need to deal with freight equipment, particularly if transit gauge freeplay standards are followed. 2.7 RESILIENT WHEELS Nearly all North American LRVs use resilient wheels such as the Bochum Bo54, Bochum Bo84, SAB, and the Acousta-Flex wheel designs. A few other designs are also in use. Resilient wheels have a long history of use on rail vehicles as a means of reducing the impacts between the rail and the vehicle. The earliest resilient wheels actually appeared in the late 19th century, using compressed paper as the cushioning element in the wheels beneath railroad sleeping cars. Several experimental designs of resilient wheels existed for streetcars in the 1920s, but the first large-scale use of cushioned wheels occurred with the introduction of the PCC streetcar in the mid-1930s. The PCC resilient wheels (there were several variations) were of the “sandwich” design, with the compressed rubber components oriented in the plane of the wheel and hence in shear under loading. Such wheels could handle a maximum vertical


Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

wheel load of approximately 6000 pounds [about 2700 kg], which was sufficient under the relatively light PCC car. Heavier cars required more robust resilient wheel designs than could be managed with a sandwich design. One of the more popular designs was the Bochum Bo54 wheel, introduced in 1954, which placed a series of rubber blocks in compression between a wheel hub and outer ring-shaped tire. The Bo54 design worked well, but required sophisticated equipment (“The Bochum Press”) to change the tires. In response to that issue, the Bochum Bo84 design made tire replacement much easier and cost-effective. Bo84 resilient wheels were designed to withstand a vertical wheel load of 12,000 pounds [5,443 kg]. Other designs based on the same principles are available from international vendors, many of whom have licensed U.S. firms to manufacture their products. Ignoring heritage streetcars, there are extremely few light rail vehicles that still utilize solid wheels. The advantages of resilient wheels compared with solid steel wheels are • Noise reduction/attenuation due to the rubber’s absorption of structure-borne vibrations. One study revealed a reduction of noise of 25 to 30 dBA for resilient wheels versus solid wheels. Resilient wheels are particularly effective in reducing sustained wheel squeal at curves, probably due to damping and the ability of the tire to deflect about a vertical axis through the contact patch. However, flanging noise is not reduced, though it is generally of much lower amplitude than sustained wheel squeal from solid wheels. Decrease of wheel and track wear due to the rubber blocks placed between the tire and the hub. One study suggests that flange face wear is half what it would be for solid wheels. This has distinct advantages with respect to wheel truing since, when wheels are turned, most of the reduction in wheel diameter is not to remove defects in the wheel tread but rather to restore the thickness of the wheel flange. Reduction of unsprung mass to the weight of the tire. By contrast, in a truck with solid steel wheels, the entire mass of the wheels and axle is unsprung. Resilient wheel tires are available with better material properties than those of rigid wheels. The typical resilient wheel tire has a hardness of 320 to 360 BHN compared with solid wheels, which have a hardness of 255 to 290 BHN. The harder wheel is hence closer to the strength of heat-treated premium rail. Softer wheels would have been sacrificial to the rail when it comes to wear. The harder wheels are closer to parity. Reduced wheel set shock and vibration, which is beneficial to trucks with rigid couplings between the axe and gear box out shaft. Brake discs mounted on the axle also benefit from reduced shock and vibration.

• •

The rubber springs of both the Bo84 wheel and Bo54 wheel are mounted in compression for vertical loads and act in shear for lateral loads. The lateral stiffness of the Bo54 and Bo84 wheels is controlled by providing a chevron-shaped cross section, which is incorporated into the Bo84 wheel as shown in Figure 2.7.1. Lateral shift of the tire relative to the hub of the wheel is thereby significantly reduced. Modern resilient wheel designs have also increased the allowable tread wear, and tire replacement can now be performed without truck removal. Higher loadings are 2-54

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

now possible without overstressing the wheel. One vendor reports commonly handling lateral forces of up to 45 kN [10,000 lb] with a vertical load of 60kN [13,500 lb] with no reported failures or problems. Figure 2.7.1 illustrates Bo84 wheels as used by New Jersey Transit.[9] The larger wheel tire on the left uses an AAR-1B wheel profile as well as AAR back-to-back wheel gauge and freeplay and is used on NJT’s Hudson-Bergen LRT line. The smaller wheel is used on NJT’s Newark City Subway routes and accommodates a back-to-back wheel gauge of 54.125 inches [1375 mm] and a reduced value of freeplay. While the same light rail vehicle is used on both routes, a different wheel is required on the Newark City Subway routes because they evolved from a legacy streetcar system.

Figure 2.7.1 Bo84 wheels used by NJ Transit For additional information on resilient wheels, see Chapter 9, Article 2.8 ON-BOARD VEHICLE WHEEL/RAIL LUBRICATION As is discussed in Chapter 9 of this Handbook, lubrication of the wheel-rail interface is a proven method of reducing wheel squeal noise. A simple observation of this can be made on any rainy day, when merely a thin film of water dramatically reduces wheel squeal. Traditionally, the application of lubricants and friction modifiers to the rails has been a responsibility of the track maintenance department. However, maintenance of trackside lubrication equipment has always been difficult and proper operation therefore erratic. Common problems include either too much or too little product applied and too little of it finding its way to the point of need. In addition, application of friction modifiers in embedded track areas can cause safety issues with motor vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Because of these issues, placing the lubrication equipment on the light rail vehicle is very attractive. It brings the equipment to the vehicle maintainer for servicing instead of requiring the track maintainer to go to multiple equipment sites, making maintenance and resupply more likely to occur. It also provides an opportunity to better control the application rate. However, the


Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

initial method of on-board lubrication, solid stick lubricators held by spring pressure against the flange of the wheel, have generally been unsatisfactory. Several situations have changed that collectively show promise of creating an optimal method of getting friction modifiers to the locations that most need it: • Better lubricants and friction modifiers that are vastly superior to and more environmentally friendly than common mineral oils and greases. These products have better characteristics for friction values, adhesive power, corrosion protection, and phase separation. They are also stable independent of temperature and can be sprayed. See Chapter 9 for additional information. Reliable spray equipment designed to match these new products that can be mounted on light rail vehicles. Global positioning system (GPS) technology that enables automatic activation of the onboard equipment at curves and other locations requiring the friction modifier without demanding action by the vehicle operator.

As of 2010, approximately a half-dozen rail transit agencies in North America have adopted onboard spray equipment for targeted application of wheel flange and top-of-rail friction modifiers. This system shows both good results (such as control of wheel squeal to less than 80 dBA) and great promise for being a maintainable technology. 2.9 VEHICLES AND STATIONS—ADA REQUIREMENTS The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that public operators of light rail transit systems make their transportation services, facilities, and communication systems accessible to persons with disabilities. New vehicles and construction of facilities must provide the needed accessibility in accordance with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). As a guideline, new light rail transit stations should be designed taking into consideration the ultimate ADA goal of providing universal access for persons with disabilities. The track alignment designer may need to consider the following when setting the track horizontal and vertical alignment. • Horizontally, the ADAAG requires providing platform edges that are within 3 inches [75 millimeters] of the edge of the vehicle floor with the door in the open position. Some LRVs have thresholds that project beyond the face of the vehicle so that the clearance between the platform and the carbody may legitimately be in excess of the ADAAG dimension. Persons entering a building normally expect a slight step upward, not down, and expect to be stepping down when exiting. Because of this human nature factor, it is important that the vehicle floor never be below the platform. Therefore, the vehicle floor elevation should generally be slightly higher than the station platform elevation so that disembarking patrons have a slight step down.