An Investigation of Railroad Maintenance Practices to Prevent Track Buckling

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American Railway Engineering Association
The use of continuous welded rail (CWR) increases the likelihood of track failure through buckling (sun-kink***) or pull-apart. Over 100 derailments occur each year, which are attributed to buckled track, with many more instances of buckled track being detected and corrected before an accident occurs. Although most railroads have formal established procedures for the laying and maintenance of CWR, significant variations exist among these practices. This report compares the practices of ten major North American railroads and the recommended practice of the American Railway Engineering Association. In addition, two surveys of railroad track buckling incidents were conducted. The first was a series of internally reported, track buckling occurrences on a major U. S; Class One Railroad. A total of 479 buckling events were examined. The second was a study of derailments, attributed to track buckling, that occurred on seven North American railroads. A total of 65 cases were examined. The survey information was then compared with the various railroad practices, as well as with current theory. Based on these comparisons, it was noted that railroads are starting to take into account differences in climatic conditions in defining rail laying temperature requirements. A critical temperature increase zone of 35 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit above the laying temperature was observed. The effect of curvature, particular heavy curvature of between five and ten degrees, was seen to be a significant factor in increasing the likelihood of track buckling. A wide variation in railroad practices, both in rail laying policies on curves and ballast shoulder widths on curves, was noted. Finally, the significance of ballast condition and the effect of maintenance operations was observed, together with the differences in maintenance practices among the railroads. Although no specific recommendations are made, general and specific observations about the surveyed track buckling failures are made and compared to current railroad practices and theory.
Continuous welded rail (CWR), Track buckling
Zarembski, A. M., & Magee, G., “An Investigation of Railroad Maintenance Practices to Prevent Track Buckling”, American Railway Engineering Association 80th Annual Technical Conference, Chicago, IL, March 1981 (published in Bulletin 684, September 1981).