Quantification of vertical, lateral, and longitudinal fastener demand in broken spike track: Inputs to mechanistic-empirical design

Marcus S. Dersch, Matheus Trizotto, J. Riley Edwards, Arthur de Oliveira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To address a recent challenge related to broken spikes in premium elastic fastening systems that have led to at least ten derailments and require manual walking inspections as well as build upon mechanistic-empirical (M-E) design principles for future fastening system component design, this paper quantifies the vertical, lateral, and longitudinal fastening system loads under revenue service traffic in a curve that has regularly experienced spike fastener fatigue failures. Previous data has indicated that the high rail of Track 3 experienced the most failures at this location. The data from this investigation sheds light into why failures are more predominant at this location than others and how the vertical, lateral, and longitudinal loads cannot be considered independently. Specifically, while the magnitude of the applied loading was the lowest on the high rail of Track 3, the threshold for failure was also the lowest given the operations at this location led to unloading of the high rail, thus indirectly highlighting the importance of friction within a fastening system. The data also show the high rail of Track 3 was subjected to the highest L/V load ratios and was an outlier in the typical lateral load reversals applied likely leading to spike stress reversals and thus a shorter fatigue life. Finally, based upon the data, it is recommended that to mitigate spike failures, as well as similar fastener challenges in other track types (e.g. rail seat deterioration, etc.) railroads should ensure trains operate close to the balance speed and use fastening system that transfer loads through friction. This study also provides novel data for M-E design of fastening systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-569
Number of pages13
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part F: Journal of Rail and Rapid Transit
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Fatigue failure
  • fastening system design
  • field data
  • load characterization
  • longitudinal loads
  • operations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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