voestalpine Schienen GmbH in Donawitz has developed the world's first head-check-free rails: DOBAIN®
Increasingly aggressive locomotives and higher stresses on the wheel-rail contact cause cracks to occur on the running edges. These initially fine cracks, which quickly grow to become deeper cracks, are called head checks. If no countermeasures are taken, they can become a real safety risk. Preventing rolling contact fatigue (RCF) is an enormous and costly maintenance undertaking. To delay the onset of head checks, high-strength rails with a Brinell hardness of 370 are currently used. These rails do not need as much periodic rail maintenance (usually grinding) as those made of standard steel grades. On the basis of this worldwide tried and tested solution, voestalpine Schienen has developed a new technology generation, the DOBAIN® rail.
The brand name DOBAIN® is a combination of the “Donawitz” location and “Bainite”, a specially heat-treated bainitic high-grade steel. The idea to use rails with a bainitic microstructure as the definitive solution for preventing RCF is not new, but before now no rail manufacturer has been able to successfully implement it on an industrial scale. With the new material design, a low alloy steel that is heat-treated on the existing state-of-the-art production machine for HSH® rails, voestalpine Schienen has now succeeded in producing the first RCF maintenance-free rail. DOBAIN® rails are currently undergoing diverse track tests.