Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Constantine Tarawneh

Second Advisor

Heinrich Foltz

Third Advisor

Stephen Crown


The U.S. freight rail network, which covers approximately 140,000 route miles, is commonly regarded as the largest, safest, and most economical freight system in the world. It generates more than 167,000 jobs nationwide and has additional advantages over other modes of transportation, such as lower costs for logistics, public infrastructure upkeep, and decreases in traffic congestion, highway deaths, fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Knowing the exact weight of cargo hauled by freight railcars can help avoid exceeding the loading thresholds set by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Moreover, knowing the exact load applied to each bearing on the freight railcar can help mitigate any load imbalances within the railcar. If we can avoid excess and/or imbalanced loading of freight railcars, we can significantly improve the performance, reduce the wear and tear, and prolong the service life of wheels, bearings, and rail tracks. Currently, the load of freight railcars is measured by weighbridges or retrofitted tracks at confined places. The inability to continuously monitor the load of the railcar, in addition to the inherent inaccuracies in these approaches, renders these methodologies limited and inefficient. Accurate load measurement was previously obtained in the laboratory using a strain gauge-based load sensor embedded between a thermoplastic steering pad and a bearing adapter. The work presented here detailed efforts made to design an optimized load sensor insert embedded in the shear pad of a bearing adapter that can continuously monitor both the dynamic and static loads on a freight railcar. The load sensor inserts geometry and calibration procedures as well as the accelerated survivability testing of the insert are also described.


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