The National Academies

TCRP C-03 [Completed]

Wheel/Rail Noise Mitigation

  Project Data
Funds: $300,000
Research Agency: Wilson, Ihrig & Associates, Inc.
Principal Investigator: James Nelson
Effective Date: 3/1/1994
Completion Date: 10/15/1996

A wheel/rail noise control manual is provided that offers practical step-by-step procedures for identifying wheel/rail noise control technologies with demonstrated effectiveness. Procedures are included for identifying wheel/rail noise sources, developing mitigation designs, and estimating probable costs and effectiveness. The manual covers noise generated on tangent track, curved track, and special trackwork. Mitigation measures include onboard, track, and wayside treatments. Accompanying the manual is a user-friendly software package that assists in identifying appropriate noise mitigation techniques for various types of wheel/rail noise. The user is presented with several screens to navigate a decision tree until a set of possible mitigation options is reached. Several sound "clips" are included to assist the user in determining the type of noise that most closely resembles that which is to be controlled. The software package also provides several calculation worksheets to estimate life-cycle costs and expected noise attenuation for various mitigation measures.

In today's climate of environmental consciousness, transit systems are being called upon to reduce noise, which previously was considered an intrinsic part of their operations. Wheel/rail noise generated either on sharp radius curves or on tangent track is considered objectionable, and transit agencies have implemented numerous mitigation techniques of varying effectiveness to reduce or control this noise. Documenting the successes and failures of these mitigation practices is useful to transit agencies and designers.

Research was undertaken by Wilson, Ihrig & Associates, Inc., to assess existing wheel/rail noise-mitigation techniques, classify and evaluate them, and provide the transit industry with tools to select the most appropriate proven solutions for wheel/rail noise problems. To achieve the project objectives, the researchers conducted a comprehensive literature review of wheel/rail noise control practices; surveyed all North American and selected foreign heavy and light rail transit agencies to ascertain their current wheel/rail noise-mitigation techniques and their related experiences—both good and bad; compiled wheel/rail noise mitigation field test reports from transit agencies, product manufacturers, and suppliers; and field tested noise mitigation measures at several transit agencies. Based on these activities, a wheel/rail noise control manual and accompanying software tool were developed.

The manual has been published as TCRP Report No. 23, "Wheel/Rail Noise Control Manual." This report has been packaged with the accompanying software tool and is available through the American Public Transit Association. An unpublished companion report, Wheel/Rail Noise Control for Rail Transit Operations--Final Report, provides a summary of the various tasks undertaken during the project and includes results of wheel/rail mitigation techniques field tested during the project. Field tests conducted during the project were used to assess (1) the effectiveness of dry-stick lubricants (high positive friction [HPF] dry-stick friction modifiers and low coefficient of friction [LCF] flange lubricants) in controlling rail corrugation and wayside noise at tangent track and wheel squeal at curves in Los Angeles and Sacramento and (2) the effectiveness of rail vibration dampers in controlling wheel squeal at curves in Boston. The results of these field tests have been incorporated in TCRP Report 23. The companion document is available on request through the TCRP. This project also produced TCRP Research Results Digest 19, which is available in portable document format (PDF). Double-click on the file below to access RRD 19. (A free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader is available at http://www.adobe.com.)

TCRP Report No. 23

TCRP Research Results Digest 19

A follow-on project that will field test several wheel and rail vibration absorbers was initiated in September 1997 as TCRP Project C-3A.

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