Rail surface defects are a serious concern for railway infrastructure managers all around the world. They lead to poor ride quality due to excess vibration and noise; in rare cases, they can result in a broken rail and a train derailment. Defects are typically classified as ‘rail studs’ when they initiate from the white etching layer, and ‘rail squats’ when they initiate from rolling contact fatigue. This paper presents a novel investigation into rail squat initiation and growth simulations using peridynamic theory. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, no other comprehensive study of rail squats has been carried out using this approach. Peridynamics are well-suited for fracture problems, because, contrary to continuum mechanics, they do not use partial-differential equations. Instead, peridynamics use integral equations that are defined even when discontinuities (cracks, etc.) are present in the displacement field. In this study, a novel application of peridynamics to rail squats is verified against a finite element solution, and the obtained simulation results are compared with in situ rail squat measurements. Some new insights can be drawn from the results. The outcome exhibits that the simulated cracks initiate and grow unsymmetrically, as expected and reported in the field. Based on this new insight, it is apparent that peridynamic modelling is well-applicable to fatigue crack modeling in rails. Surprisingly, limitations to the peridynamic analysis code have also been discovered. Future work requires finding an adequate solution to the matter-interpenetration problem.
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