In-track assessment of premium and intermediate grade rail steels

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 81, No. 914, 1988

K.J. GRIFFIN and G.W. ROSVAL,Research and Development,CP Rail

In our increasingly competitive market, attempts to improve productivity by increasing axle loads have placed more severe demands on rails. CP Rail thus requires stronger, tougher, and more wear-resistant rails from steel manufacturers. The choice of any rail steel is always a compromise between technical and economic factors. The technical assessment of a candidate rail consists of laboratory and field testing. Laboratory evaluation of rail steels cannot adequately model many service conditions and must, therefore, be supplemented by long-term field testing. The field testing conducted on CP Rail is the subject of this paper. Long-term, in-track, assessment of candidate rail steels begins with the selection and re-laying of a test curve representative of the intended service with both the candidate rail and a control rail steel (i.e. the present intermediate or premium rail standard). The wear performance of the candidate rail is evaluated, in relation to that of the control rail, using data obtained with a rail prof ilometer developed by the Research and Development Department of CP Rail. Qualitative observations are also periodically made to evaluate the relative susceptibilities of the two rail types to surface defect formation. Testing continues until stable metal loss patterns are achieved. Relative life predictions are then made and detailed monitoring of the test site is discontinued. CP Rail's in-track assessment program for premium rails has resulted in the establishment of a new CP Rail premium rail standard — low-alloy, head-hardened, rails have replaced high-alloy rails. The wear/fatigue lives of these new premium rails exceed those of our previous standard by more than 50%, and they also exhibit excellent weldability. CP Rail will continue to evaluate new premium and intermediate strength rail products.
Keywords: Materials engineering, Metallurgy, CP Rail, Rail wear, Steel, Rail technology.