Weld-induced squats are a major damage type in high-speed railways as well as in conventional railways. They incur high maintenance costs and endanger operational safety. This paper first presents and analyzes five-year continual field monitoring observations and measurements of squats at rail welds. A hypothesis of the formation and development process of the squats is proposed, which includes three steps. Steps 1 and 2 are pre-cracking, and Step 3 is post-cracking. To verify the pre-cracking process, a three-dimensional (3D) finite element (FE) model is then built up to simulate the vehicle-track interaction with detailed consideration of the local wheel-rail frictional rolling contact. Not only dynamic contact forces but also plastic deformation and wear are calculated. Starting from a smooth rail surface with varying yield stress derived from field-measured hardness, the numerical analysis confirms the hypothesis that the varying hardness at heat-affected zones (HAZs) leads to initial V-shaped irregularities due to differential plastic deformation. Afterward, the surface irregularities excite the dynamic longitudinal contact force, which in turn produces a W-shaped surface pattern through further differential plastic deformation. The growth of the W-shaped pattern leads to the formation of squats. This work provides insight into the squat formation process at rail welds and suggests that welding quality control in terms of hardness variation in the HAZs could reduce or even avoid squats. Early detection of squats with dynamics-based methods is possible.
- Differential plastic deformation
- Dynamic contact force
- Field observation
- Finite element simulation
- Varying hardness distribution
- Welds-induced rail squats