You are on page 1of 21

The railway accident of Eschede technical background

Volker Esslinger, Rolf Kieselbach*, Roland Koller, Bernhard Weisse

EMPA, Uberlandstrasse 129, CH-8600 Dubensorf, Switzerland
Received 27 October 2003; accepted 2 November 2003
In 1998 a very severe railroad accident occurred in Germany. The case went to court for negligent homicide after a
preliminary investigation had been performed. The accident had been caused by fracture of a wheel and the manu-
facturer of the wheel and the railroad company were accused. The defendants engaged a number of experts to investi-
gate the dierent technical aspects of the accident for their defence. In spring 2003 the court decided to employ an
unique procedure, to hear all experts consecutively to get the best possible overview of the dierent opinions and pos-
sibly nd the real cause of the accident. After the court had heard the testimony of these 13 experts from 5 dierent
countries it decided to discontinue the case since the guilt of the accused was deemed to be very small, if there was any
guilt at all and that further technical investigations and expert testimony would most probably bring the court no
nearer to a conviction. A failure analysis proper was not the subject of the court procedure and therefore a complete
investigation was not carried out. The result of the hearing was in the opinion of most experts, that the accident could
not be explained by the results of the investigations performed. Rather a singular incident or technological material
phenomenon could have initiated the fatigue crack, which then caused the accident. Since all realistic aspects of the
accident had been thoroughly investigated by the experts, only speculations on such incidents or phenomena were
#2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Accident investigation; Railway engineering; Fatigue failure; Strain analysis; Finite element analysis
1. Case history and accident
1.1. Development of the rubber-sprung wheel BA 064
In 1987 it was decided to use the high velocity train ICE in larger numbers. After grave problems with
oscillations a manufacturer of wheels was commissioned to further develop the existing design of rubber-
sprung wheels for usage in ICE-trains. In 1991 these wheels with the designation BA 064 after extended test
1350-6307/$ - see front matter # 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535

The information compiled in this publication corresponds to the contents of the experts presentations at the trial in Hannover of
February and March 2003. The conclusions represent the subjective choice and view-point of the authors although complete
objectivity has been striven for.
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +41-1-823-5511; fax: +41-1-823-4014.
E-mail address: (R. Kieselbach).
drives were approved by the railroad authorities for use at speeds up to 280 km/h. These wheels, which had
already been successfully employed for commuter-trains and trams for disk quite a time consist of a wheel
disk and a tyre made of steel and of rubber pads which are placed between around the circumference of the
disk. Thus smaller irregularities of rail and wheel are damped.
Fig. 1 shows the design of the wheel in and tyre section. The tread diameter of a new tire was 920 mm.
When worn down in service it could be reproled several times on a special lathe down to a permissible
minimal diameter of 854 mm.
The wheel was designed following the recommendations of the UIC. These are intended for monobloc
wheels and wheels with steel tires but not for this design of a rubber-sprung wheel. Nevertheless the load
assumptions and most general ideas could be applied to the rubber-sprung wheel as well. Since the
unsprung masses are smaller one can assume that stresses are at least not higher than with conventional
wheels. It has to be noted that the UIC-recommendations do not take account of any inuence of velocity.
This way of proceeding, to follow standards for similar problems or objects if specic standards for
the problem at hand are lacking, is quite common in mechanical engineering and is used for many new
The material was an alloyed quenched and tempered steel B5 according to UIC 810-1 [5]. The data sheet
of the steel showed the values of Table 1.
The loads on axles and wheels of railways are determined according to UIC 510-3 [3] or prEN 13979-1
[8]. The gures in these standards are equivalent, no inuence of velocity of the trains is taken into account.
The loads are related to the mass Q of the carriage per wheel. In this case Q 8000 kg was the default
value. The individual load cases have to represent the run straight ahead without lateral forces, through
curves with a lateral force acting on the wheel ange from the inside and over switches with a lateral force
acting on the wheel ange from the outside (Fig. 2).
Fig. 1. Design of the wheel BA 064.
516 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
In addition to the loads shown in Table 2 the tire of the rubber-sprung wheel is stressed by the pre-stress
of the rubber pads which is applied when the wheel is assembled and the retaining ring is attached and
also by centrifugal forces during the run. At a velocity of 250 km/h and a tread diameter of 860 mm
the wheel rotates with a frequency of approximately 26 Hz; the centrifugal stress in the tire then is
approximately 38 MPa.
1.2. Course of the accident
The train ICE 884 with 12 carriages and 2 locomotives (Fig. 3) travelled on June 5, 1998 on the route
MunichHamburg, when near the village Eschede the tire of a rubber-sprung wheel, type BA 064, broke at
a speed of approximately 250 km/h. The tire detached from the wheel, was dragged along, jammed under
the oor of the carriage and then got stuck in the tongue of a switch. By this the switch was toggled to the
neighbouring track and the hind part of the train redirected there. This led to derailment and collision of
the derailed train part with the pylon of a road bridge leading over the tracks. The collapsing bridge buried
Fig. 2. Formal load cases for railway wheels acc. to UIC 510-3.
Table 2
Load cases acc. to UIC 515-3 for railway wheel forces as shown in Fig. 2
Load case Fz (kN) Fy2 (kN) Fy3 (kN)
Case 1: run straight ahead (sinusoidal motion) 1:25 Q 98
Case 2: run through curves 1:25 Q 98 0:6 Q 47
Case 3: run over switches 1:25 Q 98 0:6 0:6 Q 28
Table 1
Material properties of the tire
(MPa) R
(MPa) A5 (%) KU at RT (J)
Nominal value None, only for information 800920 514 515
Measurement 462 828 17.7 22, 24, 22
490 853 15 16, 29, 15
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 517
a part of the train. The consequences of this catastrophe were besides with enormous material damage and
interruption of train service 100 dead and more than 100 injured passengers.
The wheel with the broken tire was the last but one on the right side of the rst carriage. In the train
there were mounted conventional monobloc-wheels as well as rubber-sprung ones; of totally 56 wheel-sets
38 had rubber-sprung wheels of type BA 064 and 18 had monobloc wheels.
After the accident the parts of the broken wheel and other comparable wheels were seized and all
necessary information on them obtained. The so-called history of the wheel tire could be reconstructed as
shown in Table 3.
At the limiting dimension of the tread diameter deemed permissible of 854 mm the thickness of the tire
would have been still 35 mm in the middle. The distance travelled of 1.8 million km corresponds to
approximately 640 million rotations.
1.3. Design principles
The design of railway components usually is based on experience and on recommendations of the
international association of railways (UIC).
Research and development of railroads in Europe is mainly done by manufacturers and railway
companies. The European Rail research Institute (ERRI) is concerned with a certain focussing of projects.
Research contracts are given by the Union Internationale des Chemins de fer (UIC), which uses its Oce
for Research and Experiments (ORE) for this purpose [2].
The UIC publishes recommendations based on the discussions of its commissions of experts, which are a
kind of technical guidance in the eld of railway engineering and thus correspond to the engineering rules
in this eld.
EN-standards at present are either still drafts or already in revision again [7]. For the type of rubber-
sprung wheel there was no special standard or guidance at the time of its development nor is there one
today. Therefore, the wheel was designed and developed as in common engineering practice.
The assumptions for external loads are normally independent of the design details and most experts
found it justied to take them from the UIC-guidance [4,6] valid at that time. The material used corre-
sponded to a common railroad tire-material [5]. The stress analysis was carried out experimentally on a
prototype (measurement with strain gauges). Load tests were carried out on a test stand on the prototype
and on wheels in bogies during test runs on the track.
Table 3
History of the ICE-884 wheel tire
Reprolation Date Distance run (km) Tread diameter (mm) Thickness of tire (middle) (mm)
0 14.6.1994 New 920 68
1 23.1.1995 157,000 910 63
2 7.3.1996 853,000 893 54.5
3 17.2.1997 1,270,000 875 45.5
4 27.8.1997 1,536,000 865 40.5
3.6.1998 1,789,000 862 39
Fig. 3. Composition of the train of the accident.
518 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
2. Investigations after the accident
2.1. Expertises to take immediate measures
After the accident all carriages having bogies with rubber-sprung wheels had been taken out of service.
One of the most urgent questions was, whether the accident had been a singular event or whether similar
failure cases on wheels of this type were to be expected and which measures had to be taken in that case.
Experts of dierent faculties were consulted, which in very short time gave as their rst statement, that
the direct cause of failure had been a fatigue crack in the wheel tire; that it was not yet possible to say
anything about the origin of this crack and that at the point of the crack start no aws had been found
which could have promoted the crack. Based on an approximative design calculation a reuptake of service
for wheels having a tread diameter of at least 880 mm was deemed permissible.
At the same time the public prosecutor had started his investigations and found in his report sucient
reason to le suit for involuntary manslaughter and bodily injure caused by negligence. All material of the
train relevant for the accident including all wheel-sets was taken and stored for further investigations.
2.2. Analysis of the fracture surface
On the fracture surface (Fig. 4) of the broken wheel tire beach- marks as the clear indicators of a fatigue
crack can be detected by visual inspection already. This fatigue crack had already cut through a great part
of the section (approximately 80%) when the nal fracture occurred.
The investigations of the broken ICE-tire have shown, that there were no surface or material aws on the
inner side of the wheel tire, (see Fig. 5), so that a quite long during phase of crack initiation can be
2.3. Discussion of the crack-growth phase
The fatigue crack started near the point (roof-top) where in the load case of straight course the
maximum stresses occur at the inside of the wheel tire. The crack grew at rst more into the depth of the
tire and spread later in a semi-elliptic way, see Fig. 4. The crack grew faster laterally than into depth. Only
when the section had been damaged to about 80% by crack-growth nal fracture occurred.
On the fracture surface colours and structures can be distinguished which imply a very discontinuous
crack-growth. Phases of very slow crack growth or of crack arrest and phases of faster growth alternate. In
all, this suggests a rather extended stable crack-growth phase.
The fracture appearance clearly shows that the material of the tire is very crack-tolerant. For the
ICE-wheel the crack was able to consume a cross-section of approximately 80% before rupture occurred.
Fig. 4. Fracture surface of the broken wheel tire.
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 519
So it can be stated again that the fracture of the ICE-tire occurred only after extended crack-growth at a
very small residual cross-section. This also indicates, that the load on the wheel tire at fracture and during
the preceding crack-growth phase cannot have been high. Approximate calculations showed wheel loads of
less than 80 kN at rupture.
3. Expertises and their results
3.1. Expertises for the court and for the accused
The results of the inspection on the accident site, of the metallurgical and fractographic investigations of
the fracture, of tests of static and fatigue strength of the broken tire, an approximate stress calculation for
the tire, then with nite elements, an experimental stress analysis using a roller type test stand and nally a
calculation of structural durability [1] were presented at court by the individual experts.
Since some of these investigations relied on simplied assumptions or methods which were not easily
comprehensible for the other experts and the results of which often considerably diered from those of the
other experts controverses were unavoidable.
For example the experimental strain analysis on a roller type test stand (see Fig. 11) of one expert gave
stresses which were smaller at higher speed which might be explainable by shortcomings of the equipment
or of the methods they employed.
The accused let execute investigations and expertises of the quintessential questions by various institutes
and experts, also outside of Germany. The points investigated by them are compiled in Table 4.
It has to be emphasized that the purpose of the investigations performed by these experts was not
primarily the analysis of the failure case itself but rather the provision of sucient arguments for the
defence of the accused.
3.2. Determination of service loads
The smoothness of travel of the ICE was tested during passage of so-called Q-measuring-points. Here a
kind of dynamic factor was determined. Since the wheel load itself was unknown, this factor could only
give a relative value. At the Q-measuring-point in Edesheim before the accident on June 3, 1998 at 10.04 h
Fig. 5. Origin of the fatigue crack as seen in the scanning microscope.
520 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
at 247 km/h on the right wheel at wheel-set 7 a dynamic factor of 2.13 has been measured, on the left side
of the same axle it was 1.47, the lowest values being around 1.2.
When the development of the rubber-sprung wheel started, there existed no results of measured service
loads for this kind of wheel using the intended bogies and tracks. Even today no results of such measure-
ments have been published. Some experts used for their calculations of structural durability load collectives
which came from measurements under dierent conditions than the ICE train service. An example of this
shows Fig. 6.
Although the numbers do not correspond to the ICE train service, this collective nevertheless at least
qualitatively shows the order of magnitudes and relations.
3.3. Experimental stress analysis
3.3.1. Measurements with strain gauges
Such measurements were performed by most of the experts. On a wheel tire of 854 mm tread diameter
strain gauges were attached as Fig. 7 shows as an example.
This wheel had been machined to the minimal tread diameter to be able to measure the highest possible
strains. It was loaded stepwise up to 150 kN with a point load using a short section of a rail. The measuring
chain was adjusted to zero at load zero when the wheel was already assembled. Thus the stresses occurring
Table 4
Expertises and the topics covered in them
of structural
load tests
on wheels
load tests
on tire
Germany 1 X X X X X X X
Germany 2 X
Germany 3 X X X X X
Germany 4 X X X X X X
Japan X X X X
Sweden X X X X X
Switzerland X X X X X X X
South Africa X X X X
Fig. 6. Example of a load collective for train service.
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 521
by assembly itself were not included in these measurements. Several measurements were performed in
which the wheel was rotated for a certain angle. By this procedure the dierent local strains occurring when
the wheel rotates could be measured.
By measuring at ve dierent points distributed over the width of the tire the local dierences were to
be covered. Point 3 in this example was where the highest strains were expected. Since the grid of the
strain gauges used is several millimeters long (typically 6 mm), the measured values for tangential strains
are a mean over the grid length. As expected, the point in the middle shows the highest stress with
approximately 300 MPa (at 150 kN, Fig. 8). The same spot at rotation suers a maximal compressive stress
of approximately 70 MPa.
Because the wheel is stressed on the rail in dierent distances from the wheel ange this inuence was
also investigated. From Fig. 9 one can see that at strain gauge 3 (DMS 3), where the crack started, the
stress is practically independent of the position of the loading plunger.
To the stresses in Table 5 caused by the wheel load the stresses due to assembly (pre-tension of rubber
pads) and to centrifugal forces have to be added. For a wheel diameter of 854 mm at 250 km/h the latter is
175 mm/m.
Fig. 7. Location of strain gauges on the wheel tire, example.
Fig. 8. Stresses measured at the tire inside at 150 kN.
522 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
3.3.2. Determination of circumferential stress from measured strain
The strains were measured by most experts only uni-axially. To be able to compare better the stresses
calculated from those measurements with those calculated with nite elements considering multi-axiality a
correction can be applied.
The stress from measured strain " is
E D"; 1
and for a 2-axial state of stress


; 2
Since according to nite-element calculation
, one gets
3 "
with 0:3; 3
the adjusted stress becomes

1:14 E "
: 4
The stress
is underestimated by 14% if only the uniaxial measurement is considered.
3.3.3. Stresses on resting and on rotating wheels
By loading a resting wheel the point directly under load suers the highest stress. This decreases over the
circumference and reaches a minimum at 45

as shown in Fig. 8.
When the wheel rotates under a load Q a point on the circumference consecutively experiences the
stresses 15; the stress range accordingly is A B as Fig. 10 schematically shows. A resting wheel, loaded
Fig. 9. Inuence on maximal stress of the position of load initiation on the tire.
Table 5
Stresses in MPa calculated from measured strains wheel ;854 mm, test load F 150 kN
Position DMS 1 DMS 2 DMS 3 DMS 4 DMS 5

maxima 185 142 297 187 228


minima 47 36 67 57 69
Stress range 232 178 364 244 298
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 523
by F is stressed only with an amplitude of A. From measurements and nite-element calculation one knows
that the positive amplitude is approximately 82% of the total stress range. At F 1:2 Q the stress range
would be equivalent. Thus the conditions of a rotating wheel can be experimentally determined in a quasi-
static test on a resting wheel. For an assessment of structural durability the eect of mean stress level has
also to be accounted for.
By one expert the strains were measured on a rotating wheel using a roller type test rig at velocities up to
250 km/h at a load of 80 kN using strain gauges. As Fig. 11 shows, the measured maximal stresses and
the stress range decreased with increasing velocity which could not be satisfactorily explained neither
physically nor mechanically and possibly was an eect of the test rig or of the measuring methods.
3.3.4. Computational stress analysis using simple models
One charge of the prosecution was, that it would have been possible to determine the stresses in the
wheel tire suciently exact by a computational stress analysis using simple models. By these it would then
have been apparent that the wheel tire was too thin. As possibilities for such simple assessments the ring,
compressed diametrally and the beam on an elastic foundation, loaded by a point load were suggested
(Fig. 12).
Approximations which use the diametrally compressed ring as a model assume, that the tire is an
independent load bearing structure in the rubber-sprung wheel. Since this assumption is wrong, these
approximations lead to unrealistically high stresses. On these no useful design calculation could be based.
Thus it would neither have been reasonable in 1992 to use such approximations.
One expert got satisfactory results with the model point load on an elastically bedded beam which
were in good accordance to nite-element calculations after he rst had adjusted the bedding coecient
accordingly. This also means that these simple analytical models do not yield useful results without a priori
information, e.g. by determination of the proper bedding coecient, in contrast to directly measuring the
stresses with strain gauges in a load test.
Fig. 10. Dierence of stresses comparing the resting and the rotating wheel.
Fig. 11. Stresses measured by one expert on a roller type test rig.
524 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
3.4. Stress analysis using nite elements
Today the method of nite elements is the standard method for determination of stresses in mechanical
engineering design. Before 1990 only linear problems could be solved by this method by industry. The
present case is a profoundly non-linear problem. The material behaviour of the rubber pads is strongly
non-linear. Because of the large deformations for the rubber pads also a geometrical nonlinearity has to be
taken into account (conventional mechanics always assumes small deformations). Finally the components
of the wheel are not connected rigidly but loads are transferred by contact and friction. The latter even
today is a very challenging problem with nite-element calculations. This becomes apparent among others,
by the fact that most software packages contain not only one material law and one solution for parameters
of contact and friction but rather a whole set of them from which the user has to choose the one which is in
his opinion the most appropriate. This is on one hand done by experience so that a certain subjectivity
comes into play, on the other hand by validation with experiments and measurements, by which those
nite-element calculations without validation by measurements bring only approximate results.
In most nite elements calculations used by the experts the solution according to MooneyRivlin was
used for the properties of the rubber pads. When assembled in the wheel the rubber pads are pre-stressed
for a certain amount such that the deformation range in service is reduced.
One expert took MooneyRivlin parameters just from a table of the software-house, others carried out
load tests on rubber specimens which then were modelled using nite elements. There the rubber properties
were adjusted until the measured values were attained in the calculation. Table 6 shows the values used by
one of the experts.
Fig. 12. Simple models for computational stress analysis.
Table 6
Material properties used in some nite-element models
Wheel tire Wheel disk Rubber pads
Material Steel B5 Stahl C2 FHFN 85 (H85)
Modulus of elasticity (E) 210,000 MPa 210,000 MPa 2,100,00 MPa
Poissons ratio () 0.3 0.3 0.3
MooneyRivlin parameter C10 (for a hardness of the rubber pad of 85

shore) 1.45
MooneyRivlin parameter C01 (for a hardness of the rubber pad of 85

shore) 0.363
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 525
Although only one half of the wheel has to be modelled because of symmetry as shown in Fig. 13,
nevertheless large models having more than 100,000 elements resulted, which means a high expense of
calculation time even for modern computing equipment.
From Fig. 14 one can see that the assembly stress is considerably smaller than service stresses at 98 kN
load and that the maximal mean stress
and the stress amplitude
have their maximum in the middle,
that is at the crack origin, but additional stress peaks occur at both sides below the circumferential ledges.
Regarding the maximal stresses along the inner circumference one can clearly see the inuence of the
support by the rubber pads as shown in Fig. 15.
The calculated stress values correspond to the measured ones. Since the calculations were performed in
the elastic range, the resulting stresses can be displayed in function of the wheel load Q as in Fig. 16.
Then the quasi-static stress can be determined for any wheel load.
The calculated results of the experts did not dier signicantly, with exception of one who used a too
simple nite-element model; an example is shown in Table 7.
Most experts did also calculate the load cases curve and switch. The stresses were determined in all
cases for the roof at the inside. Geometry, possible service loads and the rubber pads necessitate the
solution of dicult non-linear stress and contact problems using three-dimensional nite-element analyses
which today can be carried out only by a few experts in this eld.
Fig. 13. Finite-element model of a rubber-sprung wheel type BA 064, assembled with point load (left), tire alone (middle) and hot spot
in tire (right).
Fig. 14. Results of a Finite-element calculation of the rubber-sprung wheel BA 64.
526 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
At the time of the development of the rubber-sprung wheel such calculations were possible neither seen
from the programs nor from computer capacity.
3.5. Complementing calculations, interpretation of results
One phenomenon, which has not been duly recognized by the prosecution has the eect, that the loads of
the tire can only be transferred up to a certain wheel load by the rubber pads. At higher wheel loads or
possibly after heavy wear of the rubber pads the latter can be compressed so far that the tire sits directly on
the ledges of the wheel disk as schematically shown in Fig. 17.
Fig. 15. Maximal stresses along the inner circumference of the wheel tire.
Fig. 16. Stresses in the wheel tire as a function of the wheel load Q.
Table 7
Load case straight-on, example for numerical results from a nite-element calculation of a tire for various loads and tire diameters


Stress due to external load (less

(MPa) D
920 150 32 126 46 172 26 117
866 150 48 275 71 346 90 251
862 98 50 38 182 49 231 58
141 261 69 330 85
227 414 106 520 140
860 98 51 38 191 50 241 62
141 271 71 342 90
227 430 104 534 149
854 129 54 305 81 386 109 277
150 334 81 415 116 304
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 527
This phenomenon can be simulated using nite elements as Fig. 18 shows. In reality the results of course
also depend on the state of wear of the rubber pads. When the wheels were disassembled for revisions it
showed that the wear, i.e., also the loss of stiness was usually so small that the rubber pads could be
reused several times.
From Fig. 19 can be seen that the tire sits on the disc at a load of approximately 200 kN if its diameter is
862 mm (state at accident), that is the diameter it had at the accident and thus higher loads are transferred
by direct contact steel on steel which prevents increasing stresses at the roof at higher wheel loads.
The correspondence of measured and calculated values for circumferential stresses in Fig. 19 is satisfac-
tory, which inspires condence in the nite-element calculations. Nevertheless the calculated values were
up to 10% higher than the measured ones.
The dierence can be ascribed to several circumstances: mean-value over length of strain gauge, dierent
position of rubber pads in measurements to give space for the strain gauges, point-wise load introduction
in nite-element model, not exact material parameters in the calculation, tread machined cylindrically for
measurement in contrast to the slightly conical shape of the real structure which was also used in the nite
elements model.
3.6. Calculation of structural durability
Since a further charge of the prosecution had been, that no calculation of structural integrity
corresponding to the state of the art had been performed before putting the wheels into service, two experts
Fig. 17. Load shifting in the system tire-rubber-disc at higher wheel loads.
Fig. 18. Wheel load at which the tire sits on the disc, depending on wheel diameter (tire thickness).
528 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
carried out such calculations based on the newest edition of the guideline in use for this in Germany [9].
Indeed there was also a question whether such a calculation of structural durability was necessary at all.
The experts in the railway sector are of the opinion that traditionally all the railway equipment has to
be designed fatigue proof (fail safe) (Fig. 20), at least the safety relevant ones. In this connection also
Woehler, the founder of fatigue tests was commemorated, who had developed his experiments exactly to
the purpose of proving the fatigue limit for railway axles.
Nevertheless the calculations were also performed according to this FKM-Guideline. The application of
such a guideline has the great advantage that the calculations are based on a widely accepted, validated and
systematic procedure (Fig. 21).
As an example the calculation was carried out for the assembled wheel using the local concept with
stresses taken from the nite-element calculation and for a diameter of 860 mm according to Table 8.
Fig. 21 schematically shows the procedure. For a Woehler-line of the structure which has been determined
using information from geometry, material and load parameters the structure can withstand higher
stresses although for less load cycles if calculated for structural durability using load-collective 2 instead of
load-collective 1 where the number of endurable cycles theoretically is unlimited but at a lower stress.
The stress collective assumed here was a constant load amplitude, a very conservative assumption.
The material was the railway steel B5 according to UIC, corresponding to a steel C60 with material
parameters according to the shop certicate from 1992 of R
462 MPa, R
828 MPa and
Fig. 19. Comparison of measured and calculated circumferential stresses in the tire as a function of the angle of rotation.
Fig. 20. Variants for dimensioning: fatigue proof, collective 1 or nite fatigue life, collective 2.
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 529
MPa (=0.45 R
). The design values for the calculation account for supporting eects, for bending and for
surface roughness (3.2 mm).
Using a factor accounting for residual stresses and one for the mean stress sensitivity the components
fatigue limit can be calculated.
The structural durability of the tire as a component in this case was identical to the component fatigue
limit because one had calculated conservatively using the components fatigue-limit (Woehler-line)
(Table 9).
With the safety factor 1.35 for grave consequences of failure but with regular inspections and a second
one of 1.50 for no regular inspection, the assessment of the tire can be made (Table 10).
According to this assessment the tire would never have fractured.
Fig. 21. Procedure for an assessment of structural durability according to the FKM-Guideline.
Table 8
Stresses in the tire of 860 mm ;, load case straight run, loaded with 98 and 141 kN respectively, including assembly stress of 51 MPa
and centrifugal stress of 38 MPa
Stress (MPa) Wheel load 98 kN Wheel load 141 kN

39.0 18.0

280.0 360.0

159.5 189.0
241.0 342.0
0.14 0.05
Table 9
Structural durability of the tire
Permissible amplitude (MPa) Wheel load (kN)
98 141 kN

301.6 305.6

453.8 459.4

319.7 320.8
530 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
3.7. Material tests
3.7.1. Metallurgical investigations
The investigations of the fracture surfaces in the scanning electron microscope have already been
described above and have given as a result, that at the point of crack start no signs for a pre-existing aw
of material or manufacture could be detected at all. The metallographical tests have shown a normal
structure for this kind of material. Also the chemical analysis and the measured hardness prole over the
tire section had no negative results.
3.7.2. Tensile tests
The static strength of the material of the tire, corresponding to steel B5 according to UIC 810-1 [5] was
tested by a number of institutes. Thus the specimens were taken from a greater number of tires which in
Table 11 gives a good average. The nominal values were obviously attained.
3.7.3. Fatigue strength
The materials fatigue strength also was tested by some of the institutes involved in the process using
dierent procedures and specimens taken from tires. Since the test results were obtained with dierent
specimen types not all of them are directly comparable. The fatigue strength measured reached from 326 to
392 MPa. If the fatigue limit is calculated from the ultimate static stress according to [9] one gets 383 MPa.
To apply this to components several reduction factors have to be used which could be debated. One expert
for example used for the tire the technological factor for forged components, meaning that he assumed a
rough forged surface. In reality the forged parts were machined on a lathe to a quite ne nish of all surfaces.
3.8. Load tests on wheels and on tires
3.8.1. Alternating load tests on wheels
The most realistic test next to a provisional service would be a test with a wheel-set on a roller type test
stand using service load spectra. At the time of development and commissioning only one test stand of this
kind was available in Germany, which though had not been used then nor now to run tests for the inves-
tigation of the accident. Since approximately the year 2000 a new test stand shown in Fig. 22 of DB AG is
available for tests of wheel-sets.
Table 10
Utilisation ratio as indicator of the assessment
Utilisation ratio
Wheel load 98 kN Wheel load 141 kN
Safety factor1.35 0.500 0.694
Safety factor 1.50 0.556 0.771
Table 11
Results of tensile tests on wheel tire steel
(MPa) R
(MPa) A5 (%)
Mean 492 851 17.9
Standard deviation 23.6 15.9 1.1
Coecient of variation 0.05 0.02 0.06
Nominal value 800920 514
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 531
On this test stand velocities up to 300 km/h and loads up to 400 kN are possible. But the available bogies
would permit such loads only after some reinforcements. At a number of institutes sinusoidal tests were
carried out on complete wheels. Since these tests were carried out on resting wheels, the stress range pro-
duced by the test loads corresponded only to about 80% of that which would have been achieved with a
rotating wheel.
The tests were performed with wheels having tread diameters of 860 mm, in some cases even 854 mm.
Because the tire sits on the disc at loads above 170 to 200 kN, the ledges on the inner face of the tire and on
the disc were partially removed before the tests. Table 12 and Fig. 23 show a summary of the results.
3.8.2. Sinusoidal tests on segments taken from wheel tires
Because the sinusoidal tests using complete wheels had shown that cracks in the tire could only be pro-
duced under unrealistically high loads and these tests were very costly, several institutes also carried out
sinusoidal tests on segments taken from wheel tires, which allowed higher test frequencies and thus shorter
testing times.
Fig. 22. Roller type test stand for wheel-sets of DB AG (from brochure of DB AG).
Table 12
Results of sinusoidal tests on rubber-sprung wheels type BA 064
Institute Diameter (mm) Load (kN) Cycles
1 860 140 139.5 2.0 10
1 860 154 153.5 1.5 10
2 860 80 70 1.0 10
2 860 85 80 1.0 10
+1.0 10
+1.0 10
3 860 140.5 139.5 2.0 10
3 860 147.5 146.5 2.0 10
+2.0 10
+2.0 10
+2.0 10
3 860 154 153.5 2.0 10
I +0.94 10
3 860 161.5 160.5 2.0 10
+2.0 10
3 860 175.5 174.5 2.0 10
I +0.98 10
C+1.34 10
C+1.04 10
C+1.54 10
3 860 189.5 188.5 2.0 10
+2.0 10
I +0.81 10
3 860 203.5 202.5 0.98 10
C+0.55 10
4 854 80.5 79.5 2.0 10
4 854 88.5 87.5 2.0 10
+5.0 10
5 860 80 70 1.0 10
I: intact; C: crack; multiple gures for load-cycles indicate repeated tests on the same wheel.
532 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
To reproduce the real conditions in the tire of a rotating wheel the stress at the critical point (roof) has
to be adjusted accordingly, e.g., by comparison with strain gauge measurements.
These segments then were tested in 3-point bend tests. One test stand is shown in Fig. 24.
Fig. 24. Segment of tire in 3-point bend test on a testing machine.
Fig. 23. Results of sinusoidal tests on complete rubber-sprung wheels.
Fig. 25. Results of sinusoidal tests on segments of wheel.
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 533
The tests were each started with un-notched specimens at a load corresponding to a wheel load of
1:25 Q, i.e. 98 kN. After it became clear, that even with high loads no cracks could be produced if no
notch had been applied at the critical point, further test were performed using specimen with notches up to
2 mm depth and also tests on specimens without notches under loads up to 265 kN wheel load. Results are
shown in Fig. 25.
The crack-growth (Fig. 26) corresponded quite well to that of the accident but the portion of the fatigue
crack area is smaller.
Conclusion from these tests was, that only with extremely high loads a crack can be produced in a tire
having no aw (notch). Notches had to be at least 0.7 mm deep to produce a fatigue crack at a stress range
of 200 MPa, corresponding to a wheel load of 1:25 Q 98 kN.
4. Summary and conclusions
The fracture of a wheel tire which had brought about the accident of Eschede clearly was caused by a
fatigue crack at a relatively low mean stress level. The nal fracture only occurred after the remaining
cross-section had dropped to about 20%.
The material corresponded to all specications; no traces or pre-existing aws which could have initiated
a fatigue crack could be detected.
Service loads had never been determined for this type of wheel, train and track. The impact factors which
had been measured at a so-called comfort measuring point can only serve as approximate indicator.
Before the wheel was commissioned there were performed strain measurements on a prototype of the
wheel, fatigue tests on complete wheels and extended service tests on rail tracks. This procedure corre-
sponded to the UIC-recommendations in force at that time. Seen from todays view-point facilities for
design would be better. For this type of rubber-sprung wheel no individual UIC-guideline existed. The
recommendations for monobloc wheels nevertheless could correspondingly also be applied here.
After the accident fatigue tests have been carried out on whole wheels and on segments of tires which
gave as result that a fatigue load of nearly four times the nominal wheel load would have been necessary to
produce a fatigue crack without pre-existing aw, which is practically impossible because the tire comes
into contact with the wheel disc already at wheel loads of 22.5-times the nominal wheel load. When the
segments were tested, a fatigue crack could be produced only with an initial aw at least nearly 1 mm deep
and a load 2.5-times the nominal load, without notch only at about 7 times the nominal load. Since no
pre-existing aw at all had been found at the crack origin, the fatigue crack must have started from other
Fig. 26. Fracture surface of a segment specimen after a test.
534 V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535
A calculation of stresses in the tire using nite elements showed the stresses to be not signicantly high at
nominal loading. Because such calculations would have been useful primarily for optimisation of design
details and a validation of their results would have been necessary anyway by measuring strains, which had
been done in this case before commissioning of the wheels, the design process cannot be criticized in this
A calculation of in-service integrity based on the stresses calculated with loads according to UIC has
proven a sucient safety of fatigue cracking. Nevertheless it was disputed whether such a calculation
would have been relevant at all because the railway companies demand a fatigue proof design.
On the approximately 100 wheels which had been taken out of service before the accident no cracks or
aws have been reported when they were disassembled and scrapped. On the approximately 5000 remain-
ing wheels removed after the accident several cracks were found in tires but no fractures. The cracks had
occurred also in wheels with larger diameters than that of the accident and without pre-existing aws. This
supports the presumption of a rare or singular event which could have initiated the crack. It also supports
the assumption of a generally quite low mean loading level because these cracks, which were detected later,
had grown only very slowly or not at all and never reached a critical depth.
The nature of such a rare event can only be speculated about; in the ocial investigation of the case such
topics were not brought up and because this wheel type is no longer used for high-speed trains no further
research was done in this direction.
The case has shown as topics for improvement that modernisation of design rules or international
standards is necessary, that realistic measurement of service loads and impact factors should be carried out
previous to design work, that the weak spots need identication by tests on roller type test stands until
fracture and nondestructive test of these weak spots ought to be done in the regular service checks.
[1] Berger C, et al. Betriebsfestigkeit in Germany an overview. Int J Fatigue 2002;24:60325.
[2] Korpanec I, et al. Major projects of joint European railway research. Jpn Railway Transport Rev 1996:1621.
[3] UIC_Merkblatt 510-3. Eisenbahnfahrzeuge Drehgestelle-Laufwerke. Verfahren fu r die Berechnung von Radsatzwellen, 1994.
[4] UIC_Merkblatt 510-5 (14. Entwurf 2001). Technische Zulassung von Vollra dern.
[5] UIC-Kodex 810-1. Technische Lieferbedingungen fu r Rohradreifen aus gewalztem, unlegiertem Stahl fu r Triebfahrzeuge und
Wagen, 1981.
[6] ERRI B196.1 8. Entwurf zum UIC-Merkblatt, MTEL P 980016 Technische Zulassung von Vollra dern, 1998.
[7] EN 13103. Bahnanwendungen-Radsa tze und Drehgestelle Laufradsatzwellen-Konstruktionsverfahren, 2000.
[8] prEN 13979-1. Bahnanwendungen-Radsa tze Drehgestelle-Ra der Technische Zulassungsverfahren Teil 1: geschmiedete und
gewalzte Ra der, 2000.
[9] Rechnerischer Festigkeitsnachweis fu r Maschinenbauteile VDMA-Verlag Frankfurt, 4. erweiterte Auage, 2002.
V. Esslinger et al. / Engineering Failure Analysis 11 (2004) 515535 535