Anda di halaman 1dari 10





Assignment 1: Overview on Visual Inspection (VI)


ID NO. : ME098545



Types of track structure

1. Traditional track structure

The track on a railway or railroad, also known as the permanent way, is the structure consisting
of the rails, fasteners, railroad ties and ballast ,plus the underlying subgrade. It
enables trains to move by providing a dependable surface for their wheels to roll upon. For
clarity it is often referred to as railway track .Tracks where electric trains or electric trams run
are equipped with an electrification system such as an overhead electrical power line or
an additional electrified rail[1].

Notwithstanding modern technical developments, the overwhelmingly dominant track form

worldwide consists of flat-bottom steel rails supported on timber or pre-stressed concrete
sleepers, which are themselves laid on crushed stone ballast[1].

Most railroads with heavy traffic utilize continuously welded rails supported by sleepers
attached via base plates that spread the load. A plastic or rubber pad is usually placed between
the rail and the tie plate where concrete sleepers are used. The rail is usually held down to the
sleeper with resilient fastenings, although cut spikes are widely used in North American
practice[1]. For much of the 20th century, rail track used softwood timber sleepers and jointed
rails, and a considerable extent of this track type remains on secondary and tertiary routes. The
rails were typically of flat bottom section fastened to the sleepers with dog spikes through a
flat tire plate in North America and Australia, and typically of bullhead section carried in cast
iron chairs in British and Irish practice [1].

Jointed rails were used at first because contemporary technology did not offer any alternative.
However, the intrinsic weakness in resisting vertical loading results in the ballast becoming
depressed and a heavy maintenance workload is imposed to prevent unacceptable geometrical
defects at the joints[1]. The joints also needed to be lubricated, and wear at the fishplate (joint
bar) mating surfaces needed to be rectified by shimming. For this reason, jointed track is not
financially appropriate for heavily operated railroads.

Timber sleepers are of many available timbers, and are often treated with creosote, Chromated
copper arsenate, or other wood preservatives. Pre-stressed concrete sleepers are often used
where timber is scarce and where tonnage or speeds are high. Steel is used in some applications.
2. Ballastless track

A disadvantage of traditional track structures is the heavy demand for maintenance, particularly
surfacing and lining to restore the desired track geometry and smoothness of vehicle running.
Weakness of the subgrade and drainage deficiencies also lead to heavy maintenance costs. This
can be overcome by using ballastless track. In its simplest form this consists of a continuous
slab of concrete with the rails supported directly on its upper surface[1].

There are a number of proprietary systems, and variations include a continuous reinforced
concrete slab, or alternatively the use of pre-cast pre-stressed concrete units laid on a base layer.
Many permutations of design have been put forward.

However, ballastless track has a high initial cost, and in the case of existing railroads the
upgrade to such requires closure of the route for a long period. Its whole-life cost can be lower
because of the reduction in maintenance. Ballastless track is usually considered for new very
high speed or very high loading routes, in short extensions that require additional strength), or
for localised replacement where there are exceptional maintenance difficulties, for example in
tunnels. Some rubber-tyred metros use ballastless tracks [1].

Modern ladder track can be considered a development of baulk road. Ladder track utilizes
sleepers aligned along the same direction as the rails with rung-like gauge restraining cross
members. Both ballasted and ballastless types exist.

Types of Rails

Modern track typically uses hot-rolled steel with a profile of an asymmetrical rounded I-
beam. Unlike some other uses of iron and steel, railway rails are subject to very high stresses
and have to be made of very high-quality steel alloy. It took many decades to improve the
quality of the materials, including the change from iron to steel. The stronger the rails and the
rest of the trackwork, the heavier and faster the trains the track can carry.

Instead of more modern, higher performance alloys, because modern alloy rails can become
brittle at very low temperatures[1].

1. Wooden rails

The earliest rails were made of wood, which wore out quickly. Hardwood such
as jarrah and karri were better than softwoods such as fir. Longitudinal sleepers such as
Brunel's baulk road are topped with iron or steel rails that are lighter than they might otherwise
be because of the support of the sleepers[1].
Increase the reliability on the railway track

In order to increase the reliability of the railway network and improve the efficiency of
maintenance procedures, rail tracks are inspected at regular intervals for internal and surface
defects, as well as rail profile irregularities and wear, missing fastenings, failed sleepers, and
abnormal variations in rail gauges[1]. Rail tracks are usually inspected visually by
appropriately trained personnel walking along the tracks and noting down defects, which is a
relatively subjective procedure that may occasionally involve errors and omissions, and does
not provide any information with regards to the presence of internal defects or failed sleepers
[2]. Moreover, the irregularities of wheels, rails, or track properties, greatly influence the
damage. Thus, assessing and determining the condition of rail tracks is of great concern to track
engineers, especially in potential risk zones. It should be noted that these parameters are
important to dynamic analysis and design of structural systems, which are compliant with
dynamic loadings, such as railway tracks, bridges, or high-rise buildings. The resonances can
cause serious damage to such systems [2]. To maximise safety while minimising the costs of
track maintenance and renewal, evaluation and monitoring of the structural integrity of railway
tracks and its components are imperative. Rails are often systematically inspected for internal
and surface defects using various non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques.

Non-destructive testing (NDT) is the process of inspecting, testing, or evaluating materials,

components or assemblies for discontinuities, or differences in characteristics without
destroying the serviceability of the part or system. In other words, when the inspection or test
is completed the part can still be used. In contrast to NDT, other tests are destructive in nature
and are therefore done on a limited number of samples, rather than on the materials,
components or assemblies actually being put into service. These destructive tests are often used
to determine the physical properties of materials such as impact resistance, ductility, yield and
ultimate tensile strength, fracture toughness and fatigue strength, but discontinuities and
differences in material characteristics are more effectively found by NDT
In the production of railway components, various ndt methods are being deployed. Some of the
non-destructive methods are listed below: -
1. Ultrasonic Test

The replacement of common ultrasonic techniques (UT) for railway wheel sets by modern UT
concepts was a challenge for the UT research lab at BAM. Extensive activities were undertaken
with the aim of developing an optimised automated UT inspection system over the last 2 years.
This contribution focuses on the inspection of non-dismantled wheel sets[3]. The UT inspection
of the wheel disk is carried out with a multi-probe arrangement. In order to avoid mode
conversion and other disturbances the application of shear waves with polarization more or less
in the disk plane is necessary. Shear wave probes in a pitch and catch arrangement have shown
good potential for crack detection with a tangential orientation. For the different inspection
areas at the wheel disk different probe distances had to be taken into consideration. Depending
on the sound characteristics of the UT probes the disk is divided in inspection areas. Two
inspection areas are printed in the figure whereas for real wheel diameter three or more
inspection areas must be regarded for the detection of tangential oriented defects using pitch
and catch techniques. Beyond radial oriented defects are detectable in pulse echo technique[3].
The complex shape of the disk is clearly visible as well as the assumed inspection areas of the
disk. The ultrasonic set up was refined to regard this particular situation. Thus, longitudinal
waves ore shear waves with a polarization perpendicular to the plane of incidence cannot be
used due to the interaction with the disk surface (mode conversion). In addition to complex
wheel geometries with different disk thickness through which the ultrasound wave travels,
other physical barriers must also be considered.

2. Eddy current technique for gauge corner inspection

In the past rails have been inspected only by UT techniques. The inspection has more or less
focused on the detectability of defects in the volume of the rail[3]. A large area of the cross
section of the rail can be examined using shear and longitudinal wave probes. However, an
increase in surface or near surface defects, such as head checks, in the recent past requires
inspection techniques with a high detection and sizing potential to facilitate the identification
of such defects. Another condition had to be taken into consideration and that is the speed of
the inspection train[3]. To summarize, the eddy current techniques proved to be most suitable,
because the eddy current probe has a high resolution when head check distance is within the
range of a few millimetres. Ultrasonic inspection, eddy-current testing is well known as a
surface inspection technique. For rail inspection purposes, it is thus a useful additional method,
which complements ultrasonic rail inspection. The circumferential eddy current distribution on
the surface at an electrically conductive material is in interactions with surface breaking defects
like cracks if such kind of defects are existing[3]. Near-surface defects in rails have been
gaining in significance for some time. In the past, the wear on the rails was so great that trains
simply running over the rails during normal service continuously removed any surface defects
arising. However, the new rail steels are of such high quality and are so resistant to abrasion
that material wear is no longer sufficient to prevent the growth of cracks in the rail surface. The
eddy current inspection method described in the present contribution is well suited to the
detection, sizing and analysis of near-surface defects. Initially, however, our work focused on
the detection and sizing of head checks, i.e. defects occurring at the gauge corner of the rail.
Rail gauge corner inspection is necessary to avoid rail damages such as illustrated in and is
necessary to avoid accidents and save human life.

3. Falling Weight Deflectometer

Falling Weight Deflectometer, on a new railway track substructure, at the top of the sub-ballast
layer. The track was divided in zones aiming to identify all the different cross sections and
then, for each of them, a reference point was selected as representative, in order to study the
structural response[3]. The deflections measured in four different months were analysed trough
a backcalculation process, using a linear elastic model. Based on the structural models
obtained, an analysis was developed, aiming to compare the variation of elastic moduli with
water content. The FWD testing has proved to be an efficient non-destructive method, during
construction, in order to determine differences in substructure response along the track. The
tests performed with FWD are time efficient, since 29 km can be measured in one day,
performing tests every 500 m, and allow for a good characterisation in term of stiffness of the
substructure along the track length.

4. Ground Penetrating Radar

The procedure proposed herein aims to combine geometric parameters, measured by EM120,
with GPR data[4]. The scope is to identify track patterns and to obtain information about the
causes of defects in order to treat them, and not only their effects, with appropriate
interventions. In addition, a better precision for the location of the defects, not only
longitudinally but also in depth, can be obtained. All these factors may lead to time and costs
savings and to a better maintenance, providing a longer life cycle of the track[4].
The methodology can be divided into three main phases, namely: detection of critical areas,
GPR results analysis and maintenance intervention decision[4].

• detection of critical areas

In order to detect the critical areas with deterioration that can be caused by substructure defects
an improved method for geometric parameters analysis along the track was developed. This
consists in calculating standard deviation values (200 m) in a mobile window, every 0.25 m
(that corresponds to the EM120 measurement step), in order to have a continuous trend and not
only segmented data, as for the actual methodology, in which the 200 m section used for the
calculation of the standard deviation is always fixed.

• GPR results analysis

GPR measurement analysis is included and, in this way, the length of the deteriorated sections
can be even better located

• maintenance intervention decision

The visualization of the GPR results also support the maintenance decision, as it can help in
defining if tamping is efficient or not, like in case of existing settlements of the substructure.
In this way the more appropriate intervention can be adopted and its extension can be better
defined. In particular, it can be established if ballast cleaning or renewal are better than
tamping, or even if a deeper intervention is required, in case the defect is detected in at
formation layer. Therefore, GPR can be useful not only for defining the length of section but
also for indicating at which depth it requires intervention

5. Barkhausen noise

The Barkhausen noise was found to be correlated with the deformation state of the
microstructure just below the contact surface: in particular, phenomena related to ratcheting
(high plastic strain, high compressive residual stresses, strain hardening) were found to cause
a significant Barkhausen noise reduction[5].

6. NDT Based-on Radiography

Digital radiography technology is one method that has had an impact on the inspection process,
as it is economical, saves time, and is eco-friendly. Digital radiography provides a new,
innovative method that replaces X-ray films, darkroom processing, and conventional archives
with computer systems, electronic archiving and x-ray capture using direct or reusable digital
imaging plates[6]. The flexible imaging plates are used just like ordinary films in jackets and
can be placed inside or outside of the component or structure under inspection. These plates
are exposed in a similar manner to a standard radiographic setup but with reduced radiation
energy and exposure time[6]. The radiographs are then electronically reported, archived, or
accessed, as needed. Digital radiography can be employed for safety assessment and
monitoring of railway tracks and associated components.

This approach also integrates and embeds the knowledge of engineering, reducing the
subjective nature of other techniques, such as visual inspection. Radiographic inspection of
rails can be carried out using either gamma or X-ray sources[6].

7. Acoustic Emission (AE) Techniques

Acoustic emission (AE) techniques have been tested in the laboratory and in the field regarding
their suitability for the detection of surface rail defects at high speeds by various researchers at
AEA Technology Rail and Cranfield University [7]. This technique has also been investigated
by researchers in Birmingham University and elsewhere to evaluate the applicability of the
technique for structural health condition monitoring of rail sections where structural defects
have already been identified by other means and where their further growth requires attention.

8. Magnetic Flux Leakage

The application of Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL) sensors is mainly focused on the detection
of nearsurface or surface-breaking transverse defects, such as RCF cracking. However,
transverse fissures are not the only types of defects found in rails, which can include deep
internal cracks and rail foot corrosion [7]. These defects are not detectable with the MFL
method either because the fissures run parallel to the magnetic flux Kabir et al. International
Journal of Railway Research (IJRARE) 29 lines and hence they do not cause sufficient flux
leakage, or they are too far away from the sensing coils to be detected (i.e. the rail web and
foot) [7]. MFL is also adversely affected by increasing inspection speed. With increasing speed,
the magnetic flux density in the rail head decreases, and as a result, the signal becomes too
weak for the detection of defects at speeds that exceed 35km/h. Inspection systems based on
the simultaneous use of conventional ultrasonic transducers with MFL sensors have a higher
probability of detecting smaller near-surface and surface-breaking defects in the rail head.
9. Automated Vision Systems

Automated vision systems can operate at very high velocities; speeds up to 320km/h are
possible depending on the nature of the inspection [7]. They are typically used to measure the
rail profile and percentage of wear of the rail head, rail gauge, corrugation and missing bolts.
Certain advanced vision systems can be used for the detection of RCF and other types of surface
damage such as wheel burns at slower inspection speeds (10M/S)[7]. Despite the usefulness of
automated vision systems, their applicability is restricted to the detection of surface features
only and therefore the inspection needs to be repeated using ultrasonic sensors for the detection
of internal defects.


The deterioration of railway tracks raises great concerns about the integrity of assessments and
evaluations of railway tracks currently in service. Integrated inspection strategies coupled with
innovations in inspection technology can lead to significant improvements in operational cost
efficiency and reliability without the requirement of a fundamental shift in the existing
understanding of the inspection process and standards. In relation to the railway gauge corner
inspection the investigations have shown that results of excellent quality can be achieved
Consequently, this comprehensive discussion on state-of-the-art in NDT methods currently
employed in the inspection of rail tracks and their components, along with their advantages and
drawbacks, can be used to develop appropriate inspection and maintenance strategies that are
supplementary to visual inspection methods, resulting in a combination of experienced
evaluations and quantitative assessments of the structural health of railway infrastructure. In
this way, the effects and not the causes of track degradations are taken into account for
maintenance planning. Also, the actual procedures consider tamping as the main maintenance
intervention and ballast cleaning or renewal intervention are performed exceptionally, namely
only when fouling conditions are detectable at ballast surface level by visual inspections. All
these aspects lead to expensive maintenance campaigns and to an accelerated deterioration of
the track condition, in case of weak foundation.

[1] (2019). Track (rail transport). [online] Available at:
[2] Kaewunruen, S. and Remennikov, A. (2007). Field trials for dynamic characteristics
of railway track and its components using impact excitation technique. NDT & E
International, 40(7), pp.510-519.
[3] De Chiara, F., Pereira, D., Fontul, S. and Fortunato, E. (2012). Track Substructure
Assessment using Non-Destructive Load Tests. A Portuguese Case Study. Procedia -
Social and Behavioral Sciences, 53, pp.1129-1138.
[4] Fontul, S., Fortunato, E., De Chiara, F., Burrinha, R. and Baldeiras, M. (2016).
Railways Track Characterization Using Ground Penetrating Radar. Procedia
Engineering, 143, pp.1193-1200.
[5] Mazzù, A., Solazzi, L., Lancini, M., Petrogalli, C., Ghidini, A. and Faccoli, M. (2015).
An experimental procedure for surface damage assessment in railway wheel and rail
steels. Wear, 342-343, pp.22-32.
[6] Pohl, R., Erhard, A., Montag, H., Thomas, H. and Wüstenberg, H. (2004). NDT
techniques for railroad wheel and gauge corner inspection. NDT & E International,
37(2), pp.89-94.
[7] Rhayma, N., Bressolette, P., Breul, P., Fogli, M. and Saussine, G. (2013). Reliability
analysis of maintenance operations for railway tracks. Reliability Engineering &
System Safety, 114, pp.12-25.