The effect of the geometry of a wheel profile that allows only a single point of contact with the rail is investigated in this study. The local geometric properties of this profile are compared with the local geometric properties of a profile that allows for two-point contacts in order to understand the basic differences between the two profiles. A simple model is first used to examine the effect of the profile geometry on the stability and nonlinear dynamics of a suspended wheel set. The results obtained using this simple model show that the geometry of the wheel profile can significantly alter the critical speed. A computational approach is then used to investigate and quantify the effect of the wheel geometry wheel on the dynamics and stability of railroad vehicles. Two methods, the contact constraint and elastic formulations, are used. The contact constraint method employs nonlinear algebraic kinematic constraint equations to describe the contact between the wheel and the rail. The contact kinematic constraints, which eliminate one degree of freedom and do not allow for wheel/rail separation, are imposed at the position, velocity and acceleration levels. The system equations of motion are expressed in terms of the generalized coordinates and the nongeneralized surface parameters. In the formulations based on the elastic approach, the wheel has six degrees of freedom with respect to the rail, and the normal contact forces are defined as a function of the penetration using Hertz’s contact theory or using assumed stiffness and damping coefficients. In the elastic approach that allows for wheel/rail separation, the locations of the contact points are determined by solving a set of algebraic equations. The distribution of the contact forces resulting from the use of the two profiles that have different geometric properties is investigated using the two methods. Numerical results are presented for a full railroad vehicle model and the effect of the wheel profile on the vehicle stability is investigated.

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