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Introduction to Friction Management

As the global leader in railroad Friction Management, L.B. Foster is the trusted expert in implementing, assessing, and optimizing a FM program.


In the world of friction management, we talk about “the deliberate introduction of materials between the wheel and rail to influence friction.”

In simple terms, it’s about increasing traction (grip) or modifying lubrication to affect the behavior of passing wheels.

Top-of-Rail or Gauge Face?

It is our mission to help specifiers and engineers understand the real advantages of installing friction management solutions. The reasons we apply friction products on the gauge face or top of rail - and in certain instances both - vary according to the location and track characteristics.

We look at the range of solutions in three groups, Rail Lubrication , Friction Modification and Track Enhancement. All our solutions in these three areas, whether applied on the track by trackside equipment or applications on-board the train itself will offer immediate benefits to operators.

These include reduced noise, improved fuel efficiency, protection of rail assets or extended asset life. The returns are not just for network owners and operators. The human, social and community benefits of reducing noise caused by wheel squeal are incalculable and a hidden return often overlooked in favor of reduced capital outlay.

So, where do you find our different applications and what issues do they solve for our customers?

On the Rail Gauge Face and Check Rail

L.B. Foster Rail Lubrication solutions or the application of grease to the gauge face help resolve issues brought about by excessive friction. So, our solutions will:

  • reduce Rail / Wheel Wear (Gauge Face, Flange)

  • reduce Rolling contact fatigue (RCF) Development

  • increase Fuel Efficiency

  • reduce Flange Noise

  • reduce Derailment Potential (Wheel Climb)

  • reduce Lateral Forces (indirect).

Top of Rail friction modifiers are primarily used to reduce noise and rail head corrugations. They are also known to improve curving behavior, as well as reducing wear and damage to both wheel and rail. In North America one of the main drivers for use is to improve fuel efficiency.

L.B. Foster Friction Modification solutions or the application of friction modifying material called KELTRACK to the top of the rail (TOR) help to control friction at the wheel/rail interface. So, our solutions will:

  • reduce Lateral Forces

  • reduce rail / wheel wear (TOR, tread)

  • reduce rolling contact fatigue development

  • increase fuel efficiency

  • reduce squeal noise

  • reduce flange noise (indirect)

  • reduce corrugations

  • reduce vehicle hunting and improve ride quality.

L.B. Foster Traction Enhancement solutions or the application of a material called ALLEVIATE™ to the top of the rail (TOR) where vehicles may experience a reduction in adhesion levels. This can occur with well-known problems of leaf fall but also can include, changes in speed, at Stations and signals, Inclines/Declines and during Cold temperatures. ALLEVIATE™ is applied using our trackside TGA system.

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