The Educational Railroading Conference Leader Since 1994


2019 Heavy Haul Session


Rail & Wheel Profiles: The Nexus of Wheel/Rail Interaction

Rob Caldwell

Rob Caldwell
NRC, Canada

Although the wheel/rail interface is literally one of the smallest areas of practice within railroading, its importance is vastly out of proportion to its scale. It’s also the main reason why we are all attending this conference. The interface can be considered as a core system, and as such it requires and deserves attention. Wheel and rail profiles are the main elements of the interface, and having compatible profiles at the outset simplifies and reduces the effort required to maintain them.

This presentation will examine how wheel and rail profile designs have evolved over the years, and will then look at how the tools and methods of design have evolved with technology. We will then discuss the basics of profiles and talk about all the things that can go wrong if the wheel and rail profiles are not as compatible as they should be. Lastly, we’ll review variety of profiles that are in use on different types of railway systems so we can understand why the design or selection of profiles should not fall into the “one-size-fits-all” approach.