Thermal analysis of railroad bearings: Effect of wheel heating

Constantine M. Tarawneh, Arturo A. Fuentes, Brent M. Wilson, Kevin D. Cole, Lariza Navarro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Scopus citations


Catastrophic bearing failure is a major concern for the railroad industry because it can lead to costly train stoppages and even derailments. Excessive heat buildup within the bearing is one of the main factors that can warn of impending failure. A question is often raised regarding the transfer of heat from a wheel during braking and whether this can lead to false setouts. Therefore, this work was motivated by the need to understand and quantify the heat transfer paths to the tapered roller bearing within the railroad wheel assembly when wheel heating occurs. A series of experiments and finite element (FE) analyses were conducted in order to identify the different heat transfer mechanisms, with emphasis on radiation. The experimental setup consisted of a train axle with two wheels and bearings pressed onto their respective journals. One of the wheels was heated using an electric tape placed around the outside of the rim. A total of 32 thermocouples scattered throughout the heated wheel, the axle, and the bearing circumference measured the temperature distribution within the assembly. In order to quantify the heat radiated to the bearing, a second set of experiments was developed; these included, in addition to the axle and the wheel pair, a parabolic reflector that blocked body-to-body radiation to the bearing. The appropriate boundary conditions including ambient temperature, emissivity, and convection coefficient estimates were measured or calculated from the aforementioned experiments. The FE thermal analysis of the wheel assembly was performed using the ALGOR™ software. Experimental temperature data along the radius of the heated wheel, the bearing circumference, and at selected locations on the axle were compared to the results of the FE model to verify its accuracy. The results indicate that the effect of thermal radiation from a hot wheel on the cup temperature of the adjacent bearing is minimal when the wheel tread temperature is at 135°C (275°F), and does not exceed 17°C (31°F) when the wheel tread is at 315°C (600°F).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ASME/IEEE Joint Rail Conference 2009, JRC2009
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2009
Event2009 ASME/IEEE Joint Rail Conference, JRC2009 - Pueblo, CO, United States
Duration: Mar 4 2009Mar 5 2009

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ASME/IEEE Joint Rail Conference 2009, JRC2009


Conference2009 ASME/IEEE Joint Rail Conference, JRC2009
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPueblo, CO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation


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