Wheel–rail interaction is one of the most important research topics in railway engineering. It involves track impact response, track vibration and track safety. Track structure failures caused by wheel–rail impact forces can lead to significant economic loss for track owners through damage to rails and to the sleepers beneath. Wheel–rail impact forces occur because of imperfections in the wheels or rails such as wheel flats, irregular wheel profiles, rail corrugations and differences in the heights of rails connected at a welded joint. A wheel flat can cause a large dynamic impact force as well as a forced vibration with a high frequency, which can cause damage to the track structure. In the present work, a three-dimensional (3-D) finite element (FE) model for the impact analysis induced by the wheel flat is developed by use of the finite element analysis (FEA) software package ANSYS and validated by another validated simulation. The effect of wheel flats on impact forces is thoroughly investigated. It is found that the presence of a wheel flat will significantly increase the dynamic impact force on both rail and sleeper. The impact force will monotonically increase with the size of wheel flats. The relationships between the impact force and the wheel flat size are explored from this finite element analysis and they are important for track engineers to improve their understanding of the design and maintenance of the track system
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