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Analysis of train wheel noise

Fowkes, N. and Hocking, G. (2001) Analysis of train wheel noise. In: Proceedings of the 2000 Maths-in-industry study group, Adelaide, Australia pp. 54-79.

Free to read: http://w3.unisa.edu.au/misg/2000/artc/
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Abstract

The high-pitched squeal from cornering trains has been a problem for more than a century. The noise is particularly bad for the residents of the Adelaide Hills, where there are some of the tightest curves in the Australian railway network.

It is not a trivial problem. Maximum noise levels have been measured at well over 100 decibels 7.5 metres from the track. This can be physically painful. In addition, production of the squeal consumes extra fuel, and wears wheels and rails.

Since the privatisation of the Australian interstate rail system, the problem of railway squeal has become the preserve of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), whose job it is to manage sections of the nation’s rail infrastructure and sell access to it. ARTC commissioned a study from consulting engineers, Vipac, who measured the noise, suggested what the source might be and made a series of recommendations ranging from further testing to physical changes in wheels and rails.

ARTC asked the MISG team to identify the cause of wheel squeal via a frequency analysis, develop models of vibration of the wheel-rail system which could be used to validate the source of the noise, and develop strategies to mitigate the noise.

After a solid look at the literature on the problem, and much discussion both amongst those at the conference, and with experts outside, the MISG team concluded that a cycle of sticking and slipping as wheels move along the rail would stimulate vibrations at the right frequency, and that these conditions are most likely to occur on sharp corners, and with badly maintained bogies or worn wheels.

Among other measures, the team recommended more stringent maintenance of bogies, and modifying the padding under the sleepers so that the rails are more flexible.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Chemical and Mathematical Science
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/12414
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