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Cracked Steel Wheels

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On Friday, there were apparently only 4 trains operating for the initial start of day service. This is a result of a cracked steel wheel being detected, which forced the whole fleet to be inspected and caused a shortage of trains available. More trains became available as the day progressed

By Saturday morning, a new update was given that for the time being only 7 trains will operate, offering service every 8 minutes, with an 8th train available as a hot spare. This is so that all trains that are used can be inspected when they end service to ensure no others develop wheel cracks. As a root cause or explanation has not yet been found this will be the current operating scenario for the foreseeable future. 

More details can be found here: https://www.otrainfans.ca/news/o-train-line-1-service-update-for-july-4-2020

What are your thoughts? What can cause a steel wheel crack?

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Posted (edited)

I think there is a few clarifications that will be needed from RTG and OC Transpo, namely on the "permission" to operate only 7 trains. Does it mean that RTG gets a "pass" and not penalized, or it actually counts as a failure to deliver the expected trip miles? Eitherway, my trust in RTG / RTM is completely eroded by now.

Regarding the wheels, I can think of three main causes, though I'd be curious to know what others have to say.

  • Imperfections in the steel used: either a failure of process or the result of "cheaping out". Results in some parts of the wheel being softer while others are more rigid and potentially to expand at different rates leading to cracks. Generally this is amplified by "extreme heat".
  • Process failure: I count is seperately, but essentially if the cooling down is too fast / slow or wheel not heated enough / too much during manufacturing, it can result in brittle steel and therefore more susceptible to cracking / breakage.
  • Track geometry / Train Dynamics: not sure how much there is to look into there, but rough sections (between Hurdman and St-Laurent) have been getting worse and might fatigue the wheel due to improper condition. Traction management and agressive breaking can amplify the excessive wear / fatigue on the material.

Regardless of the cause, it is indeed the "only" option to remove trains until all wheels are inspected and give the okay to go back in circulation. Processes should be in place to avoid bad batches from being accepted by RTM as part of quality assurance, which probably indicates Alstom / RTM are going for the cheapest supplier and not overlooking too much. I also question if the issue arose following the line closures as a result of changes made, or if it was not identified before hand and just came to their attention. Neither is an acceptable result. All I am gonna say is that we are clearly not getting a 'world-class' system as was promised and more people should be held accountable for it.

Edited by DavidBellerive
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Even if the system worked perfectly, we wouldn't have a "world-class" system. We would have a very "nice", functional, economy system. World-class will be the REM, with fully automated trains and enclosed heated/cooled stations. 

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The Mayor did say a Chev and not a Cadillac. Yet, more and more, it's seeming like a Lada for those who remember the Russian/Fiat import that sold for 8K, looked pretty good superficially, but rusted like wildfire and had multiple electrical failures . . . It's a tragedy actually, for public transportation everywhere in Canada in medium sized cities. I am weeping a silent tear at how badly the whole P3 process has gone (off the rails)

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19 hours ago, Shane said:

This is a really good article highlighting the phenomenon that we are now experiencing. Great find. Thanks Phil.

Good Day.

Yep...I read the article - it is discussing more the heat caused by brake shoes against the wheel itself, common in heavy rail systems such as freight train freight cars, and some LRV systems.

Our problems are more due to other causes, whatever they may be.
In photos posted at RTG. You can see that we have disc brakes mounted outside the wheels themselves.
This avoids most of the heat-from-braking problem discussed, and is used for this very reason.

It does go into other causes of wheel cracking, but only lightly.

We await TSB.

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