Since the adoption of 286,000 lb gross rail load (286K GRL) car service, an increase in wheel thermal damage and shelling has been observed. This is attributed to the increased braking horsepower in 286K GRL service as compared to the 263K GRL service environment. This study investigated possible designs and methods of braking that could lead to reduced heat input to the tread of freight car wheels in order to mitigate this damage and reduce its occurrence to a level closer to that seen with 263K GRL car service.

Fifteen potential concepts to lower the thermal input to wheels and/or accelerate heat removal from the tread were identified and evaluated using the following engineering categories: simplicity of design, maintenance requirements, weight considerations, material and manufacturing costs, controllability of braking effort, and market acceptability. Five final concepts — axle-mounted disc, cheek disc, wheel rim, axle-mounted drum, and high convection coating — were developed through preliminary design and thermal analysis to confirm their effectiveness in meeting the objectives.

Four concepts for alternative braking methods — axle-mounted disc brakes, cheek disc brakes, wheel rim clasp brakes, and axle-mounted drum brakes — were analyzed in considerable detail. Of the four concepts presented, the first three appear to be feasible and would be potential candidates for further detailed investigations/evaluation.

It is shown that as the demand on railway wheels to withstand increased mechanical and thermal loads grows, there are viable braking enhancements that can help manage the stress state in freight car wheels.

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