Back for more Wheel-Rail Interaction

Posted by Tyler Trahan
on Sunday, June 16, 2019

Every year, some of the brightest people in the railroad and transit worlds gather to discuss the dime-sized contact patch between wheels and rails.

The four-day Wheel-Rail Interaction Conference brings together engineers — the kind who run calculations, not locomotives — from major railroads, transit agencies, suppliers, consulting firms, and research organizations to learn from each other and present their research and experiences in order to make railroading safer and more efficient.

The lineup for 2019 includes such seminars as:

  • Evaluating Comprehensive Track Inspection Vehicles for Transit Operations
  • Creating a Grinding Map for Transit
  • Cleaner, Harder, Better Wearing Rail & Wheel Steels
  • Understanding Rolling Contact Fatigue: What Can be Done to Lower Risks?
  • Derailment Prevention: From Causes to Cures
  • Moving to Performance-Based Automated Track Inspection: The Benefits and Hurdles Ahead

You might think that these technical names suggest a jargon-filled presentation illustrated with graphs and detail photos of wheels, rails, and other hardware where the takeaway is often a percentage number of some improvement. And you’d be correct.

That’s one of the reasons why the conference, in addition to devoting a day to Rail Transit and two to Heavy Haul, also includes a full day of Principles classes where experts teach the basic science of wheel-rail interaction and give the necessary context to understand the rest of the week’s seminars. For many attendees, it’s a refresher to parts of the field they may not use daily in their job. For newer attendees, it’s a way to learn the jargon and understand why these things are important.

Trains Magazine is a presenting sponsor of WRI and sends at least one reporter each year to learn this interesting and important subject, find stories to cover in the magazine and in News Wire, and meet and maintain connections with industry experts who make such stories possible. Most of these experts probably wouldn’t describe themselves as railfans, but they are all deeply invested in the industry and passionate about their work.

This week I’m headed to New Orleans to attend the 2019 conference. My first conference was in 2017, and sparked every story I’ve done since then. These ranged from a one-page infographic in the January 2018 issue about noise mitigation tools for transit lines to an eight-page feature about CSX and Loram’s innovations in rail grinding in the October 2018 issue. I’m headed into this year’s conference with the same focused plan going forward, and a lot more knowledge than last time. Look for my updates on this blog, and in future issues of the magazine.

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