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Rolling Stock PUBLIC ACCESS

A New Friction Management System is Intended to Boost Efficiency on the Railroad.

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Mechanical Engineering 123(02), 59 (Feb 01, 2001) (1 page) doi:10.1115/1.2001-FEB-5

Abstract

This article discusses features of a new friction management system, which is intended to boost efficiency on the railroad. Friction Management Services LLC of West Chicago, Illinois, has developed a friction management system, called TracGlide that consists of a synthetic polymer and computerized application equipment, installed on the locomotive at the front of the train. Unlike conventional lubrication schemes, the TracGlide system applies a friction modifier, not a lubricant, to the top of the rail. Although railroads usually avoid treating the tops of rails to avoid traction problems, the TracGlide polymer tends to increase the coefficient of friction when needed. The friction modifier is applied on both rails after the last axle of the last locomotive at the front of the train passes by. The application is computer controlled, based on factors such as the train’s weight, track curvature, speed, and temperature of the lubricant, which are constantly changing.

Article

A developer says it has a system that puts a polymer on the rails to make trains run, and stop, more efficiently. Friction Management Services LLC of West Chicago, Ill., has developed a friction management system, called TracGlide, that consists of a synthetic polymer and computerized application equipment, installed on the locomotive at the front of the train.

Under development for about seven years, the system applies a friction modifier, a water-based, synthetic polymer consisting primarily of hydrocarbons, to the top of the rail from nozzles located at the back of the locomotive, explained Eric Wolf, president of Friction Management Services who is also chairman of the ASME Rail Division . The company worked with Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill. and Texaco in White Plains, N.Y, to develop the system.

Traditional railroad practice is to lubricate the side of the rail, or the gauge face, to reduce the wear between the wheel and the rail, primarily on curves. However, large lateral forces still occur as the train goes around the curve, causing degradation in the track structure, he said.

Unlike conventional lubrication schemes, the TracGlide system applies a friction modifier, not a lubricant, to the top of the rail. The polymer has a coefficient of friction of 0.15 under normal rolling conditions, said Wolf. The coefficient of friction of grease is typically around 0.05.

Although railroads usually avoid treating the tops of rails to avoid traction problems, the TracGlide polymer tends to increase the coefficient of friction when needed. " It's a friction modifier in that it's normally low and gets higher, to about 0.5, under braking or traction from the locomotive," he explained.

Wolf claimed the system could increase railroad fuel efficiency by about 10 percent on average. It lowers the amount of energy required to counteract the slippage that occurs between the axle and the rail and reduces lateral forces on curves by about 50 percent.

A polymer for rails aims to compete with traditional methods to reduce track and wheel wear.

Grahic Jump LocationA polymer for rails aims to compete with traditional methods to reduce track and wheel wear.

"Besides fuel efficiency, you get benefits to the track structure," Wolf said. "Nobody has had a material like this before, or a system to put it on top of the rail, to put it in service, and get some benefits out of it."

The friction modifier is applied on both rails after the last axle of the last locomotive at the front of the train passes by. The application is computer controlled, based on factors such as the train's weight, track curvature, speed, and temperature of the lubricant, which are constantly changing. The polymer degrades easily and quickly, within minutes of application. It lasts only as long as the train passing over the rails and leaves a nontoxic residue. Wolf said the polymer would not degrade at high ambient temperatures; two variations of material are designed for cold temperatures of -20°F and -45°F. Similar to antifreeze, the polymer freezes into a slush, not a solid, so it can be used in very low temperatures.

Friction Management Services-a joint venture of Tranergy Corp. in Bensenville, Ill., and The Timken Co. in Canton, Ill.-will be supplying the hardware and software, and supervising installation of the application equipment. Texaco will produce the polymer under Friction Management's supervision.

Copyright © 2001 by ASME
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