July 1997

Document Type


Degree Name



Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering


Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology


The friction and wear that occurs between wheel and rail exacts millions of dollars out of maintenance budgets each year. Standard lubrication practices have been found to be unreliable in effectively lubricating curved track sections. Consequently, a method of reducing cost and increasing rail life is of significance to the railroad industry. Through the use of self-lubricating materials and thermal spray technology a composite surface coating was developed. A 1080 steel coating provided a wear-resistant matrix, in which to incorporate solid lubricants. The 1080 steel coating was found to provide increased wear resistance and some friction reduction (µ=0.46 vs. µ=0.5-0.7 for uncoated rail). The reduced wear stems from the coatings resistance to degenerate into severe wear modes. The wear rate of uncoated rail steel can be an order of magnitude greater than that of a 1080 steel coating. Three solid lubricant/steel coating systems were investigated; graphite incorporated into 1080 steel, copper incorporated into 1080 steel, and various polymers deposited over a 1080 steel coating. The structure of the coatings was evaluated by metallography and wear performance. Metallographic analysis included optical, SEM, and FIB. Polymer film analysis was performed with FTIR. Wear testing and friction measurements were accomplished with the Amsler twin disk wear testing machine. Coatings were tested against class C wheel steel at 5% and 35% slide/roll ratios, with contact pressures ranging from 700 to 131 5 N/mm2. The work identified unique wear mechanisms for each coating system. The friction reduction and durability of the graphite/steel coatings was good at low slide/roll ratios. The copper/steel coatings were unable to control friction and had limited life. The polymer/steel coatings, particularly nylon/steel, had excellent performance at a wide range of slide/roll ratios and contact pressures. The nylon / 1080 steel coatings were applied to rail sections for large scale and field testing.





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