Quantification of rail transit wheel loads and development of improved dynamic and impact loading factors for design

J. Riley Edwards, Aaron Cook, Marcus S. Dersch, Yu Qian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An increase in the number of rail transit track construction and rehabilitation projects in North America has generated increased interest in optimizing the design of the track infrastructure and its components. Many rail transit track component design guidelines use historical wheel loads and loading factors that were derived from freight railroad design practices. These design factors may not be representative of the loading experienced on the rail transit networks today, leading to over-designed, sub-optimal infrastructure components. Therefore, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign are conducting research to lay the groundwork for improved understanding of the loading environment entering the track structure using wheel loads data obtained from recently deployed field instrumentation and existing wheel impact load detectors. This paper evaluates the existing design impact factors and assesses their effectiveness when applied to the rail transit sector, using data from three representative rail transit agencies in the United States. New dynamic loading factors are also proposed to represent the rail transit loading environment more accurately. A quantitative approach to addressing design factors may provide economies in future designs and facilitate the use of probability of exceedance and other metrics that relate to factors of safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2406-2417
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Rail transit
  • concrete sleeper
  • dynamic wheel load factor
  • impact factor
  • mechanistic design
  • track components
  • wheel–rail interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering

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