Experimental Measurement and Finite Element Analysis of Screw Spike Fatigue Loads


Screw spikes, also known as coach screws, are an advanced alternative to common cut spikes for track fastening. Despite their ability to secure tie plates with a clamp load and utilization of high strength steels, they are still susceptible to bending fatigue failure from lateral wheel loads. A novel method of measuring these bending loads on screw spikes was developed and implemented to characterize the load environment of the screw spikes. Results indicated that measured peak bending loads under lateral wheel loads reached as high as 10,000 lbs for individual spikes, while others carried no load whatsoever. A finite element model was developed to determine the tensile stress fields created by the measured bending loads. A good correlation was found between the FEA model predicted point of highest stress and the location of fracture. Through the testing and analysis it was determined that lateral wheel loads are not distributed evenly among the four screw spikes of a single tie plate. Instead, it was found that one spike carried nearly no load while the spike opposite of it carried more load. Using the finite element analysis it was determined that the spike exposed to the higher loading was subjected to tensile stresses above its endurance limit, which would eventually lead to a bending fatigue failure.