Discrete Element Modeling of Railway Ballast for Studying Railroad Tamping Operation
Dama, Nilesh Madhavji
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The behavior of the ballast particles during their interaction with tamping tines in tamping operation is studied by developing a simulation model using the Discrete Element Model (DEM), with the aim of optimizing the railroad tamping operation. A comprehensive literature review is presented showcasing the applicability of DEM techniques in modeling ballast behavior and its feasibility in studying the fundamental mechanisms that influence the outcome of railroad tamping process is analyzed. The analysis shows that DEM is an excellent tool to study tamping operation as its important and unprecedented insights into the process, help not only to optimize the current tamping practices but also in the development of novel methods for achieving sustainable improvements in the track stability after tamping. The simulation model is developed using a commercially available DEM software called PFC3D (Particle Flow Code 3D). A detailed explanation is provided about how to set up the DEM model of railway ballast considering important parameters like selection and calibration of particle shapes, ballast mechanical properties, contact model, and parameters governing the contact force models. Tamping operation is incorporated into the simulation model using a half-track layout with a highly modular code that enables a high degree of adjustability to allow control of all process parameters for achieving optimized output. A parametric study is performed to find the best values of tine motion parameters to optimize the linear tamping efficiency and a performance comparison has been made between linear and elliptical tamping. It is found that squeeze and release velocity of the tines should be lesser for better compaction of the particles and linear tamping is better compared to elliptical tamping.
General Audience Abstract
Railway track stability is the resistance of the tracks to deformation and is affected by the rail traffic, ballast fouling (contamination of ballast) and the changing environmental conditions. The track stability depends on the normal and frictional support provided by the ballast to the sleepers. Non-uniform ballast consolidation below the railway sleeper results in erratic wheel-rail contact forces, low traffic speeds, poor ride quality, and derailments. Thus, tamping is a railway track maintenance method done periodically on the railway tracks to ensure track stability. Tamping process involves compacting the railroad ballast underneath the sleeper. The sleeper is lifted by a desired height and then vibrating tamping tools called tines are inserted into the ballast below the sleeper to fill the void created by lifting of the sleeper and the sleeper is dropped back on to the ballast. So, it is important to understand the ballast mechanics, dynamics and ballast’s behavioral response to the tamping operation. Since, large scale experiments such as this are difficult, this operation has been simulated in a commercially available software called PFC3D using a Discrete Element Model (DEM) to represent the railway ballast. It is shown through a simulation that though spherical particles provide better computational efficiency, they cannot capture the exact ballast behavior like clumps (a collection of spherical pebbles). So using clumps to represent ballast, efforts are made to optimize the linear tamping efficiency. This is done by changing the values of parameters like tine amplitude, tine frequency, insertion velocity and squeeze velocity and finding their optimum values. Linear tamping results are compared with elliptical tamping. Thus, an optimum tamping cycle would help save money spent on the track maintenance activities.
- Masters Theses