Modifying residual stress levels in rail flash-butt welds using localised rapid post-weld heat treatment and accelerated cooling

D. Tawfik, P. J. Mutton, W. K. Chiu

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Flash-butt welding is used in the manufacture of continuously-welded rails. Finished welds typically exhibit high tensile residual stresses in the rail web and at the upper surface of the rail foot, which may increase the risk of fatigue failure in service. An understanding of the influence of the welding process, including post-weld cooling, on the residual stress distribution is necessary to improve the performance of flash-butt welds by post-weld heat treatment (PWHT), since incorrect treatment may have adverse effects on both residual stress and weld material characteristics. A finite element model has been developed to simulate post-weld cooling in flashbutt welded AS60 kg m -1 rail. Computed thermal histories for normal (air) cooling, rapid PWHT, and accelerated cooling (water spray) were used as inputs to calculate sequentially coupled stress-time histories, including phase transformations. In addition, the localised influence of the initiation time for rapid PWHT, after final upset, on the reduction of tensile residual stresses was investigated. Heating the rail foot immediately after final upset reduced tensile residual stresses in the web region of the weld. Preliminary numerical predictions showed that water quenching the entire weld region too soon after the austenite-pearlite transformation is completed can induce further tensile residual stresses without affecting the microstructure. The results of the numerical analysis can be used to modify the flash-butt welding procedure to lower residual stress levels, and hence improve weld performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-130
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Heat Treatment and Surface Engineering
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008


  • Continuously welded rails
  • Flash-butt welding
  • Modelling
  • Post-weld heat treatment
  • Residual stresses
  • Stress relief

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