Field Validation of Inspection Gauges for Wheels Climb Safety at Switch Points

The University of Delaware, working with Norfolk Southern and Amtrak, conducted a field assessment of improved inspection tools, developed under Rail Safety Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Project S-28 to be used to reduce wheel climb derailments at switch points. Four potential switch point gauges were evaluated and assessed, each of which addresses a different wheel climb mechanism that is of particular concern to U.S. railways: (1) Chipped or damaged switch points; (2) Poor wheel/rail contact through the point for new or moderately worn wheel profile; (3) Excessive gauge face wear of the switch point; and (4) Severely worn wheel-related climb. The goal of this project was to provide railroads and transit systems with a set of practical and directly useable gauges for track inspectors to evaluate the condition of switch points. During the two sets of field assessments, approximately 350 switches on seven railroads/consultant organizations were inspected and evaluated. The evaluations included direct correlation between inspector and gauges, statistical analyses, and decision tree analyses all looking at the effectiveness of the gauges in identifying switch points that are in a condition that can contribute to or result in a derailment. The results of the two field inspections showed extremely good agreement, with overall ratings in the range of 80%, in line with the statistical analysis. In several cases, agreement was more than 90% (and in one case it was 100%). Feedback from the railroads and inspectors was very favorable, noting that the gauges addressed several conditions that are often overlooked and, in general, made for a more detailed inspection of the switch point. In addition, the gauges will help train inexperienced inspectors and refine their judgment in this area. Based on the results of this program, the committee has recommended that these gauges be made available to the railroad industry, as well as to such railroad standards organizations as American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) for industry implementation. The final report is available.


  • English


  • Funding: $82179
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 28, Safety IDEA

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Safety Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA)

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Gause, Jo

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Delaware, Newark

    Department of Civil Engineering
    301 DuPont Hall
    Newark, DE  United States  19716
  • Principal Investigators:

    Zarembski, Allan

  • Start Date: 20150814
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 40598

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01590175
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 28, Safety IDEA
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Feb 12 2016 5:13PM