Instrumented Wheelsets for Rail Cars

National Research Council Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
What the facility does

Offers real-time measurements of the dynamic vertical, lateral and longitudinal forces that occur at the wheel-rail interface

Areas of expertise

The National Research Council (NRC) has been a leading designer and developer of Instrumented Wheelsets (IWS) for rail cars in North America for over 20 years. NRC's IWS offers unmatched accuracy, reliability and durability with a unique ability to turn complex data into useful information for the end-user.

NRC's IWS system is based on German proven technology that has been implemented in over 800 instrumented wheelsets globally, on both passenger and freight rolling stock.

During train operation, heavy loads combined with the dynamic forces that occur at the wheel/rail interface can lead to deterioration of both track and rolling stock. Wheel/rail contact anomalies can lead to increased maintenance costs and reduced service life. In situations where poor track quality exists, excessive forces can cause derailments, buckles, breaks, rail rollovers, and other safety concerns.

In all cases, knowing and managing wheel/rail forces is a critical factor in reducing safety risks, lowering maintenance costs, and maximizing service life. An IWS is the only tool that provides direct measurement of wheel/rail contact forces.

Research services
  • Field-proven instrumentation: Precise gauge placement and full bridge configuration for superior signal-to-noise ratio and temperature compensation.
  • Plug and Play: Wheelsets are installed into the existing truck, and connected to your existing data acquisition system to enable immediate use and data streaming.
  • Self-zeroing: No need to lift wheelsets off the ground to zero them before testing.
  • Optical data-transmission: Contact-free transmission of digital data.
  • NRC's IWS Analytical software: Post processing of large IWS data files, and outputs a summary of all AAR M-976 exceptions with accurate GPS positioning of exception locations.
  • Real-time data processing: Ability to view wheel/rail forces in real-time, allowing online and timely decisions to be made during field testing – immediately identifying the location of peak loads on the rail.
Sectors of application
  • Transportation



IWS Calibration Frame

Custom-designed frame to apply up to 40 KN vertical and lateral forces to calibrate the instrumented wheelset

Instrumented wheelset computer

Custom-designed computer system to acquire raw sensor data and calculate IWS forces

Data acquisition system

Recording and transmission of IWS force data to NRC’s labs

NRC proprietary IWS analytical software

Performs post processing of large IWS data files, and outputs a summary of all Association of American Railroads (AAR) M-976 exceptions with accurate GPS positioning of exception locations

  • Transport Canada
  • Quebec North Shore and Labrador (QNS&L) Railway
  • New York City Transit
  • TTX Company



NRC wheel bearing and brake research facility

Rail Transit 2018: Quantifying wheel/rail interaction and managing noise and vibration

FTA: Integrated wheel/rail characterization through advanced monitoring and analytics (Report 0145)…