The mechanism of rail short pitch corrugation has remained elusive in the past. The damage mechanisms of the corrugation are reported to be differential wear or plastic deformation. The former has been extensively studied, while the plastic deformation, especially under multiple wheel passages has been seldom studied. To uncover the facts behind it, an integrated dynamic vehicle-track model with the rail material treated in elasto-plasticity is developed. Further, a novel method which can simulate the material deformation under cyclical axle loads is proposed. This method is used to study the rail material response at corrugation. Our research found that for the cases studied, the rail material undergoes cyclic plastic deformation at corrugation peaks only for a limited number of cycles (2–4 cycles) before reaching the elastic shakedown limit. After that, no further residual stresses and strains accumulate. The plastic deformation at corrugation peaks weakens the corrugation amplitude, serving as an early corrugation attenuation mechanism. Conversely, work-hardening at corrugation peaks increases wear resistance at those peaks, promoting corrugation in the long term. The explanation of the corrugation development process under the interplays of the plastic deformation and wear has been validated by field corrugation data. Additionally, we propose a wear coefficient in the wear model to account for the work-hardening and change in the wear resistance. Experimental results of the hardness distribution show the similar characteristics to the numerical results.
- Coupled vehicle-track dynamic model
- Differential wear
- Elastic shakedown
- Plastic deformation
- Short pitch corrugation