Development of optimal designs of insulated rail joints

Zong, Nannan (2013) Development of optimal designs of insulated rail joints. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Proper functioning of Insulated Rail Joints (IRJs) is essential for the safe operation of the railway signalling systems and broken rail identification circuitries. The Conventional IRJ (CIRJ) resembles structural butt joints consisting of two pieces of rails connected together through two joint bars on either side of their web and the assembly is held together through pre-tensioned bolts. As the IRJs should maintain electrical insulation between the two rails, a gap between the rail ends must be retained at all times and all metal contacting surfaces should be electrically isolated from each other using non-conductive material. At the gap, the rail ends lose longitudinal continuity and hence the vertical sections of the rail ends are often severely damaged, especially at the railhead, due to the passage of wheels compared to other continuously welded rail sections.

Fundamentally, the reason for the severe damage can be related to the singularities of the wheel-rail contact pressure and the railhead stress. No new generation designs that have emerged in the market to date have focussed on this fundamental; they only have provided attention to either the higher strength materials or the thickness of the sections of various components of the IRJs. In this thesis a novel method of shape optimisation of the railhead is developed to eliminate the pressure and stress singularities through changes to the original sharp corner shaped railhead into an arc profile in the longitudinal direction. The optimal shape of the longitudinal railhead profile has been determined using three nongradient methods in search of accuracy and efficiency: (1) Grid Search Method; (2) Genetic Algorithm Method and (3) Hybrid Genetic Algorithm Method. All these methods have been coupled with a parametric finite element formulation for the evaluation of the objective function for each iteration or generation depending on the search algorithm employed.

The optimal shape derived from these optimisation methods is termed as Stress Minimised Railhead (SMRH) in this thesis. This optimal SMRH design has exhibited significantly reduced stress concentration that remains well below the yield strength of the head hardened rail steels and has shifted the stress concentration location away from the critical zone of the railhead end. The reduction in the magnitude and the relocation of the stress concentration in the SMRH design has been validated through a full scale wheel – railhead interaction test rig; Railhead strains under the loaded wheels have been recorded using a non-contact digital image correlation method. Experimental study has confirmed the accuracy of the numerical predications.

Although the SMRH shaped IRJs eliminate stress singularities, they can still fail due to joint bar or bolt hole cracking; therefore, another conceptual design, termed as Embedded IRJ (EIRJ) in this thesis, with no joint bars and pre-tensioned bolts has been developed using a multi-objective optimisation formulation based on the coupled genetic algorithm – parametric finite element method. To achieve the required structural stiffness for the safe passage of the loaded wheels, the rails were embedded into the concrete of the post tensioned sleepers; the optimal solutions for the design of the EIRJ is shown to simplify the design through the elimination of the complex interactions and failure modes of the various structural components of the CIRJ.

The practical applicability of the optimal shapes SMRH and EIRJ is demonstrated through two illustrative examples, termed as improved designs (IMD1 & IMD2) in this thesis; IMD1 is a combination of the CIRJ and the SMRH designs, whilst IMD2 is a combination of the EIRJ and SMRH designs. These two improved designs have been simulated for two key operating (speed and wagon load) and design (wheel diameter) parameters that affect the wheel-rail contact; the effect of these parameters has been found to be negligible to the performance of the two improved designs and the improved designs are in turn found far superior to the current designs of the CIRJs in terms of stress singularities and deformation under the passage of the loaded wheels. Therefore, these improved designs are expected to provide longer service life in relation to the CIRJs.

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ID Code: 61125
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Dhanasekar, Manicka, Gu, YuanTong, & Wexler, David
Keywords: insulated rail joint, stress minimisation, multi-objective optimisation, edge effect, shape optimisation, wheel-rail contact, parametric finite element method
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Civil Engineering & Built Environment
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 04 Jul 2013 23:10
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2015 23:03

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