The Canadian railway network is subject to severe extreme climatic conditions (e.g., cold temperatures, strong winds, snow, ice, and seasonal freeze and thaw cycles) as well as climate-induced geohazards, such as frost heave and tunnel icing.

Research Objective

The research program was developed in direct consultation with Railway Engineers from across the industry with the objectives to:

1.     Reduce the frequency of interruptions and improve service reliability in all weather conditions

2.     Develop equipment and track infrastructure health monitoring technologies and systems

3.     Develop a strategy for maximizing system capacity and minimizing rail maintenance in a cold environment.

Current Research

Frost Heave

Localized frost heaves beneath track can result in bumps. Frost heaves develop where water is present within soil and the temperature drops below freezing. This work aims to quantify the magnitude of the issue and determine the root (local) causes of frost at problematic sites.

Tunnel Icing

Railway tunnels are affected by water leakage and freezing temperatures, which cause ice to form along the tunnel contour in the form of icicles and pillars that can damage the tunnel structure, handrails, cable racks, installations, and drainage system. This project aims to research frost generation along tunnels.

Low Temperature Rail Breaks

Continuously Welded Rail (CWR) has become standard on the mainline of North American railways. As CWR has no joints to allow for the expansion and contraction, with changes in temperature, large stresses within the rails are generated. This work aims to develop a new testing method for measuring the fracture toughness of rail steels, relying on the use of Finite Element Analysis coupled with mechanical testing, and measure fracture toughness, in terms of Klc values, to determine the effect of low temperature on the fracture toughness.

Cold Weather Mechanical Reliability

This work aims to conduct a reliability analysis of air brakes, using a combination of fault modes and effects analysis and statistical analysis of condition monitoring that includes normal operating data and observed faults of both classes. 

Climate Change Impact

The change in the frequency and magnitude of severe weather events is projected as a consequence of expected climate changes. This can be examined on the short-term scale, using forecasts of weather conditions for quarterly periods (, or over the coming 100, 250, and 500 years, using models of expected temperature and precipitation trends. The focus of this research will be to develop an understanding of how the extent of the impact of severe weather events related to climate change will affect the level of care that railways must apply to the monitoring of infrastructure and nearby hazards.

Operational Optimization

Major Canadian railway companies ship millions of cars over their railroads every year. A shipment can pass through many classification yards from its origin to its destination. After a shipment is placed in a block, it is not reclassified until it reaches the destination of that block, reducing intermediate handlings of shipments. A blocking plan that produces the minimal total shipment cost can lead to huge savings in handling costs for the railway industry.

In a single-lane main line operating network, the locomotive power output is matched to train length and expected grade. A better understanding of the implications of locomotive failures will permit better decision making, better allocation of maintenance and repair resources.