On the fatigue improvement of railways superstructure components due to cold expansion – Part I: Experimental analysis

G Pucillo, Alessandro Carrabs, Stefano Cuomo, Adam Elliott, Michele Meo

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The fatigue strength improvement of materials and structures has always been the subject of studies, as a consequence of the rapid development of technologies and strictive safety requirements. In the railway field the fatigue resistance problem is thoroughly studied due to high transportation safety standard. Fatigue cracking is a major issue, in particular at rail-end-bolt holes. Cold Expansion is a common technique to induce beneficial residual compressive stresses around the holes, with the aim to improve the fatigue life of the rail. This paper is the first of a two part-series dealing with the study of the residual stress-strain field induced by the cold expansion process around rail-end-bolt holes. In Part I of this series, a contribution to better understanding the whole strain field distribution arising around rail-end-bolt holes during and after cold expansion is presented. Strains were experimentally measured using both electrical strain gauges and 2D-Digital Image Correlation. Contrary to common literature, strain-time history during the entire cold expansion process was investigated, in order to capture the highly non-linear elasto-plastic response of the material; the results of this study has been used in Part II of this series for the validation of the finite element model described there. The cold expansion process was applied to three rail holes, having equal nominal diameter. At first, the experimental results concerning each expanded hole are analysed. Then, all the results are compared, in order to evaluate the repeatability: - of the measurements; - of the Cold Expansion process; - of the adopted experimental technique, and, above all, to extrapolate the distribution of the hoop and radial residual strains as a function of the distance from the hole edge. At the end, results obtained by strain gauges and 2D-Digital Image Correlation are compared: a good agreement is found on the central flat surface of the rail web, which guarantees the availability of a robust and valuable highly non-linear reference result that has been used for the validation of the finite element model presented in Part II of this series.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1998-2012
Number of pages15
JournalProcedia Structural Integrity
Early online date1 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020


  • Cold Expansion
  • Residual Stresses
  • Strain gage
  • Digital Image Correlation
  • Fatigue Life
  • Fatigue Crack Growth


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