State of the Art Roller Rig for Precise Evaluation of Wheel-Rail Contact Mechanics and Dynamics

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


The focus of this study is on the development of a state-of-the-art single-wheel roller rig for studying contact mechanics and dynamics in railroad applications. The use of indoor-based simulation tools has become a mainstay in vehicle testing for the automotive and railroad industries. In contrast to field-testing, roller rigs offer a controlled laboratory environment that can provide a successful path for obtaining data on the mechanics and dynamics of railway systems for a variety of operating conditions. The idea to develop a laboratory test rig started from the observation that there is a need for better-developed testing fixtures capable of accurately explaining the complex physics of wheel-rail contact toward designing faster, safer, and more efficient railway systems. A review of current roller rigs indicated that many desired functional requirements for studying contact mechanics currently are not available. Thus, the Virginia Tech Railway Technologies Laboratory (RTL) has embarked on a mission to develop a state-of-the-art testing facility that will allow experimental testing of contact mechanics in a dynamic, controlled, and consistent manner. VT roller rig will allow for closely replicating the boundary conditions of railroad wheel-rail contact via actively controlling all the wheel-rail interface degrees of freedom: cant angle, angle of attack, and lateral displacement. Two sophisticated independent drivelines are configured to precisely control the rotational speed of the wheels, and therefore their relative slip or creepage. A novel force measurement system, suitable for steel on steel contact, is configured to precisely measure the contact forces and moments at the contact patch. The control architecture is developed based on the SynqNet data acquisition system offered by Kollmorgen, the motors supplier. SynqNet provides a unified communication protocol between actuators, drives, and data acquisition system, hence eliminating data conversion among them. Various design analysis indicates that the rig successfully meets the set requirements: additional accuracy in measurements, and better control on the design of experiments. The test results show that the rig is capable of conducting various contact mechanics studies aimed for advancing the existing art. Beyond developing the experimental testing fixture for studying contact mechanics, this study provides a comprehensive review of the contact models. It discusses the simplifying assumptions for developing the models, compares the models functionality, and highlights the open areas that require further experimental and theoretical research. In addition, a multi-body dynamic model of the entire rig, using software package SIMPACK, is developed for conducting modal analysis of the rig and evaluating the performance of the rig's components. A MATLAB routine is also developed that provides a benchmark for developing creep curves from measurements of the rig and comparing them with existing creep curves.



Roller Rig, Mechanical Design, Wheel-Rail Contact, Multi-body Dynamic Modeling, Contact Force Measurement System