Railway Tribology

And then came the announcement: “We are sorry to announce that your train has been cancelled due to leaves on the line/repair works/an unforeseen accident.”

From the mildly inconvenient to the deadly serious, friction plays an essential part in keeping trains running safely and on time. 

By studying the interaction between parts of the train and the track or overhead lines, our railway tribology research group are working towards solving problems which have consistently frustrated operators and customers; reducing wear on rails and overhead lines, improving stopping distances and increasing the functioning of trains in extreme or unusual weather conditions.

More than simply performance issues, the economic implications are significant as Network Rail estimated they spend £12.6 million per year on replacing overhead lines.

Projects in this cluster benefit from the use of purpose built machinery, like SUROS (the Sheffield University Rolling Sliding) twin disk testing machine, which enables us to carry out experiments more frequently and with less cost than standard field tests.

One of the most important assets of a railway network is its track, and managing and maintaining this asset is vital. Portec offer a suite of products to control friction at the wheel-rail interface and so reduce track
deterioration, improve fuel economy, reduce noise, and optimise vehicle running performance. Controlling friction at the wheel-rail interface requires a detailed understanding of the tribological interactions. For several
years Portec has been working with the Leonardo Centre to enhance that understanding and to develop new realistic test methods. It is this kind of investment in research that helps us develop the very best products to service the railway industry. Peter Jones, Managing Director, Portec Rail Group.

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