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Development of the Finite Segment Method for Modeling Railroad Track Structures

[+] Author Affiliations
Martin B. Hamper, Ahmed A. Shabana

University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

Khaled E. Zaazaa

ENSCO Inc., Springfield, VA

Paper No. JRC2011-56099, pp. 117-128; 12 pages
  • 2011 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2011 Joint Rail Conference
  • Pueblo, Colorado, USA, March 16–18, 2011
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5459-4 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3893-8
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


In the finite segment method, the dynamics of a deformable body is described using a set of rigid bodies that are connected by elastic force elements. This approach can be used, as demonstrated in this investigation, in the simulation of some rail movement scenarios. The purpose of this investigation is to develop a new track model that combines the absolute nodal coordinate formulation (ANCF) geometry and the finite segment method. The ANCF finite elements define the track geometry in the reference configuration as well as the change in the geometry due to the movement of the finite segments of the track. Using ANCF geometry and the finite segment kinematics, the location of the wheel/rail contact point is predicted online and used to update the creepage expressions due to the finite segment displacements and rotations. The location of the wheel/rail contact point and the updated creepage expressions are used to evaluate the creep forces. A three-dimensional elastic contact formulation (ECF-A), that allows for wheel/rail separation, is used in this investigation. The rail displacement due to the applied loads is modeled by a set of rigid finite segments that are connected by set of spring-damper elements. Each rail finite segment is assumed to have six rigid body degrees of freedom. The equations of motion of the finite segments are integrated with the railroad vehicle system equations of motion in a sparse matrix formulation. The resulting dynamic equations are solved using a predictor-corrector numerical integration method that has a variable order and variable step size. As shown in this paper, the finite segments may be used to model specific phenomena that occur in railroad vehicle applications, including rail rotations and gage widening. The procedure used in this investigation to implement the finite segment method in a general purpose multibody system (MBS) computer program is described. Four simple models are presented in order to demonstrate the implementation of the finite segment method in MBS algorithms. The limitations of using the finite segments approach for modeling the track structure and rail flexibility are also discussed.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME
Topics: Modeling , Railroads



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