Consideration of fatigue crack growth aspects in the design and assessment of railway axles
Current design rules for railway wheelsets do not directly address issues related to fatigue crack propagation. Nevertheless, the latter topic is a part of the revised safety concept for passenger trains recently adopted in German railway applications. Numerous research activities, including international cooperative projects, have been conducted in the past decade aiming at quantifying fatigue crack growth rates in railway axles and estimating their inspection intervals based on the fracture mechanics methodology. This paper summarizes some experience and findings obtained by the authors within several studies dealing with the assessment of fatigue crack propagation in railway steels. Particular aspects highlighted in the paper include material characterization, effects of the specimen geometry and crack tip constraint on fatigue crack growth rates, stress analyses of axles and wheelsets, the derivation of stress intensity factor solutions applicable to specific conditions achieved in railway axles, considerations of the variability and scatter of geometrical parameters and material data in fatigue crack growth calculations.