You are on page 1of 6

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

tread that lies below the plane of the top of rail. On the field side of the concave worn tread, the wheel taper will actually be negative. Such worn wheels are often referred to as having a hollow tread profile. Poor curving performance will occur, with potentially poor performance on tangents, contributing to rail corrugation and wear. 2.6.3.2 Transit Wheel Design and Selection While shared track with a freight railroad operation might force the selection of the AAR-1B narrow flange wheel and AAR wheel gauge, most new LRT operations have more latitude in selecting an optimal wheel profile. Rail car designers have several computer programs available that enable them to model the dynamic characteristics of the vehicle, including the behavior of the proposed wheel profile for a given trackform and variations in rail head shape, gauge freeplay, and other factors. Examples include NUCARS, AdamsRail, and VAMPIRE. Figure 2.6.1 illustrates a wheel contour that has been successfully employed on a U.S. LRT system that uses both 115RE tee rail and 51R1 groove rail. It could be considered as a starting point for determination of the optimal wheel for a new LRT system without railroad interface. Figure 4.2.2 in Chapter 4 illustrates the same wheel superimposed on the track and illustrating gauge and freeplay issues. Since the time when this wheel was developed, the dimensions of 115RE rail have been revised to incorporate an 8-inch [300 mm] crown radius, hence this wheel profile may no longer be optimal.

Figure 2.6.1 Candidate initial LRV wheel profile (All dimensions in inches)

2-45

Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

The paragraphs that follow describe some of the issues that must be considered when selecting or developing a wheel profile for light rail transit. 2.6.3.2.1 Tread Conicity Wheel treads virtually always have a conical taper when new (usually 1:20) so as to promote selfcentering in tangent track and some degree of steering in flat curves. Conical/tapered wheels have been common since the early 20th century. However, a very few legacy rail transit properties continue to use cylindrical wheels, having originally adopted them long ago to resolve problems with uncontrolled truck hunting. That solution came with the penalty of loss of selfcentering and increased wear on rails and wheel flanges in curves. Cylindrical wheels also need more frequent maintenance to correct the development of false flanges. Better methods are available to control hunting today through truck design, so cylindrical wheels are not recommended. Some transit properties have adopted flatter or steeper tapers than 1:20 and/or use a steeper conicity outboard of the normal wheel/contact zone. The latter defers the need to do wheel truing to correct hollowing of the wheel tread, but, in general, frequent wheel truing is strongly recommended as part of a comprehensive preventative maintenance program. Some literature suggests that tapered wheels may promote wheel squeal at curve, due to a positive feedback effect as the wheel vibrates across the rail head. This behavior is theoretical, but may explain why wheel squeal appears to be more prevalent at rigid track than in poorly maintained track built with jointed rail that is only loosely fastened to the ties. This is a curious situation that deserves more investigation. 2.6.3.2.2 Tread Width The tread on AAR wheels is over 4 inches wide, that being necessary to ensure the wheel can reliably bridge the open throat of the intersecting flangeways in turnout frogs, given the relatively loose tolerances on railroad track gauge and wheel set maintenance. Transit systems, having a captive fleet and higher standards for track and wheel set maintenance, can generally employ narrower flangeways in frogs and proportionally narrower wheels. If the track system employs flange-bearing frogs throughout, the wheel tread can be very narrow as the wheel tread is not in contact with the frog through the open throat. Narrow wheel treads also reduce the unsprung mass of the wheels, with appreciable benefits concerning impact forces and energy consumption. Narrow tread wheels are typically combined with wider back-to-back wheel gauge, the reduced freeplay compensating for what might otherwise be a reduction in the available wheel/rail contact surfaces. See Article 2.6.6 for additional discussion on wheel tread width. 2.6.3.2.3 Flange Face Angle Older wheel designs, such as those recommended by the former ATEA, had relatively flat flange angles. An angle of 27 degrees to the vertical (63 degrees to the axle) was common. Research at the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI), as documented in TCRP Report 71: TrackRelated ResearchVolume 5: Flange Climb Derailment Criteria and Wheel/Rail Profile Management and Maintenance Guidelines for Transit Operations,[15] demonstrated with numerical simulations that wheel flanges positioned at an angle of 72 to 75 degrees with respect to the axle are much less likely to climb the rail than the old flatter flange angles. The factor that describes the propensity for a wheel to climb the rail is known as the Nadal Value. Wheels that comply with the old ATEA designs were found to have Nadal Values of about 0.70 to 0.75. By contrast, the

2-46

Light Rail Transit Vehicles

AAR-1B wheel and transit wheels of similar design have Nadal Values of about 1.1, indicating a much reduced tendency to climb the rail and hence a greater margin of safety against derailment. To be fully effective, the 75-degree flange angle should be constant (i.e., not part of a curved surface) for a distance not less than 0.1 inch [2.5 mm]. APTA adopted this standard as part of their recommended practice for commuter railroad equipment.[11] As of 2010, APTA had not endorsed this feature for light rail and metro rail passenger equipment, but it can be safely asserted that it represents good practice. Many European tramways use wheels that have an even steeper flange face angle of 1:6 (about 80.5 degrees to the axle), which matches the gauge face slope that is common on European groove rail sections. 2.6.3.2.4 Flange/Tread Radius As noted above, nearly all modern wheels incorporate a conformal compound curve radius in the throat between the wheel tread and the flange. This should closely match the radii used on the gauge corners of the rails to be used on the LRT. Designers are cautioned against mixing different rail sections in the track design unless the selected sections present a reasonably consistent contact surface to the wheel. In that regard, it should be noted that many groove rail sections have gauge corner radii that are radically different from that of 115RE tee rail. 2.6.3.2.5 Flange Back Angle/Radius Most wheels, including the AAR-1B, have a relatively broad radius between the radius on the flange tip and the flat face of the back of the wheel. This eases the transition of the wheels into guarded special trackwork and is hence desirable for smooth operation. In the case of track systems that employ restraining rail, the angle of the back of the wheel should be carefully considered with respect to both the horizontal angle of attack between the wheel and the restraining rail and the vertical angle of the restraining rail. Three dimensional modeling of the contacting surfaces is suggested. 2.6.3.2.6 Flange Height The flange height is the vertical distance from the tip of the flange to a point on the wheel tread known as the taping line (see Article 2.6.3.2.9). Legacy streetcar lines, particularly those with flange-bearing special trackwork, often use very short wheel flanges. Three-quarters of an inch [19 mm] is common, which contrasts sharply with AAR wheel flanges that are 1 inch [25 mm] tall. Short flanges have several serious design issues: They are generally incompatible with the AREMA 5100 undercut switch point design because the tip of the wheel flange is above the top of the leading end of the switch point. On one LRT project, short flanges on legacy rolling stock that had worn even shorter in service would routinely climb the second cut on the top of the diverging switch point and derail. An aggressive wheel reprofiling program along with a wholesale modification of the stock rails was necessary to stabilize the situation. Their short height also provides a very narrow contact band with the gauge side of the rail when passing through curves, leading to accelerated gauge face wear on both the rails and the wheels. They provide virtually no height for the desirable minimum straight flange face angle when combined with a conformal compound radius in between the flange and the tread.

For these reasons, the recommended minimum flange height is 1.0 inch [25 mm]. 2-47

Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

2.6.3.2.7 Flange Thickness Typically, the flange thicknessthe horizontal dimension from the projected vertical back face of the wheel to the gauging point on the front of the flangeshould be about 7/8 to 1 inch [22 to 25 mm]. This allows for a reasonable amount of flange face wear before wheel truing becomes essential. In general, wheel truing should not be deferred until the flange thickness reaches a condemning limit, since by then it might not be possible to restore the flange without removing an excessive amount of the wheel tread surface, substantially reducing the wheel diameter. Reduction of wheel diameter often triggers the need to shim the trucks so that the vertical relationship between the vehicle doorways and the platform remains in compliance with ADAAG. If the track design will use groove rails with extremely narrow flangeways (generally any flangeway less than about 1 inches [38 mm] wide), it will usually be necessary to reduce the flange thickness from the recommended dimension above. Such thin flanges will require more frequent wheel truing and are not recommended. 2.6.3.2.8 Flange Tip Shape The tips of the wheel flanges on systems that use flange-bearing special trackwork tend to wear flat or nearly so, slightly decreasing the height of the flange. To prevent this loss of height, the wheel flange for use with flange-bearing frogs should have a tip that is either flat or has a very broad radius for a width of at least inch [6 mm] to reduce contact stresses. This then compounds into a shorter radius that blends into the angles on the front and back face of the flange. 2.6.3.2.9 Wheel Diameter LRV wheels are generally 24 to 28 inches [610 to 710 mm] in diameter. This measurement is made at a point on the tread that is a consistent distance from the back face of the wheel and nominally where the wheel tread contacts the top of the rail when the wheel set is centered on the track. It is known as the taping line since that is the location where the circumference of the wheel is measured with a specially calibrated tape. The diameter of a wheel has a direct effect on the length of the footprint that the flange has at the top-of-rail level. This in turn affects how the wheel interacts with the rail, especially in curves and through special trackwork. The footprint of small diameter wheels could be less than the length of open frog throats and could present challenges with respect to providing proper guarding of the frog. See Chapter 4 for a discussion about the generation of Wharton diagrams and Nytram plots and for the determination of the most appropriate track gauge and flangeway widths for a given wheel. Mixed fleets that have more than one wheel diameter must consider each one independently, even if they all have the same wheel profile. 2.6.3.3 Independently Rotating Wheels (IRWs) Independently rotating wheels, having no solid axle to force paired wheels to have the same rotational velocity, behave appreciably differently in curved track. Curving behavior is modified, reducing longitudinal slip, but flange face wear is greater on IRWs than on the wheels of the power trucks on the same LRVs due to increased angle of attack. IRWs tend to produce more flanging noise than solid axle wheel sets, again due to increased angle of attack and lateral creep velocity. This issue was investigated in TCRP Project C-16, and informal observations that had

2-48

Light Rail Transit Vehicles been made on several transit properties operating 70% low-floor cars were confirmed.[16] As a result of this accelerated wear, it is generally necessary to reprofile IRWs more frequently and replace the resilient wheel tires more often than on solid axle wheel sets. 2.6.3.4 Miscellaneous Considerations for Wheel Contours 2.6.3.4.1 Historic Streetcars Several light rail transit systems have antique streetcars (or modern replicas of same) that are operated over the tracks of the system on either an occasional or scheduled basis. The wheels on such rolling stock must be considered to the same degree as those of the LRV fleet. In general, any such vehicles should be retrofitted with wheel contours conforming to the adopted standard for the system. Exceptions might be made for a one-time use, such as the opening day ceremonies for a new LRT system, provided the wheels on the heritage vehicle are in good condition and the back-to-back wheel gauge is consistent with the special trackwork. Badly worn wheels, particularly any which have short flanges or false flanges, should not be permitted Even if the heritage vehicles will be equipped with new wheels, some modifications may still be required in the event that the heritage vehicles have wheel diameters or truck wheelbases that are substantially different from the regular LRV operating fleet. Many pre-PCC vintage streetcars have wheel diameters that are appreciably different (both much larger and much smaller) than those of modern LRVs. These differences directly affect the footprint of the wheel flange at the top of rail elevation. Such wheels should be evaluated closely using Filkins-Wharton diagrams and the Nytram plots as discussed in Chapter 4. 2.6.3.4.2 Shared Trackage with Freight Railroad In the event that the LRT shares track with freight trains, special trackwork that conforms to AREMA standards for flangeways and check gauge and adoption of the AAR-1B wheel (or something close to it) will usually be essential. However, if the LRT system also includes embedded track sections using narrow flangeway groove rails, it may be necessary to both employ a compromise wheel contour and modify the special trackwork in the shared-use area. Such combined systems became popular in Europe during the 2000s, following the success of a pioneering tram-train operation in Karlsruhe, Germany. Such systems typically use ordinary tramway tracks in downtown areas and switch onto local or regional freight railroad tracks in suburban or interurban areas. Compatibility is achieved by both using a modified wheel, as seen in Figure 2.6.2, and providing elevated guard rails opposite frogs in the shared track areas. In Figure 2.6.2, the 7.5 mm [0.30 inch] projection on the back face of the wheel provides a backto-back distance that complies with European practice on freight railways while the back-to-back gauge at the wheel tread elevation complies with transit practice. The overall width of the wheel provides for safe operation over railroad frogs while the outer taper provides assurance that the wheel tread overhang will not initially contact the pavement in groove rail areas. (Some contact may occur as the rail wears and would need to be corrected by pavement grinding.) Wheel gauge and gauge freeplay match transit practice and present no problem on well-maintained freight track.

2-49

Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit, Second Edition

Figure 2.6.2 Compromise wheel for Karlsruhe tram-train (all dimensions in millimeters) No tram-train systems have been constructed in North America, although DMU operations in southern New Jersey and Austin, Texas, have some tram-train characteristics. There are institutional issues related to the regulations of the Federal Railroad Administration that make it somewhat unlikely that tram-train technology can be fully applied in the United States. That situation notwithstanding, the Karlsruhe wheel is illustrative of what can be possible when trackwork and vehicle designers collaborate to achieve a desired goal. 2.6.3.5 Average Worn Wheel Conditions Chapter 2 of the first edition of the Track Design Handbook for Light Rail Transit included an extensive discussion of investigations made concerning interactions between trackwork and badly worn, hollowed wheels with pronounced false flanges on the outer edges of the wheels. That discussion originated in research done for freight rail operations and generally has no applicability to a light rail transit system that performs routine wheel truing as part of a comprehensive preventative maintenance program. The focus of investigations into wheel/rail interactions is generally on the performance of new wheels running on new rail, a condition that exists only briefly on any project. Arguably, the condition of most interest is the behavior of the system with both rail and wheels worn in, but well before either reaches a condemning limit. Wheels generally wear much faster than rails. So some investigation about the performance of average worn wheels running on average worn rails might be appropriate. For an operating system with little maintenance budget, the track designer may be faced with accommodating a variation of tread profiles for the same vehicle. All of these options are appropriate for wheels and rails in good condition as well. Designing for the worstcase profile is appropriate, and close coordination between track and vehicle maintenance providers is necessary in any case.

2-50