Identifying and accurately characterizing shallow-depth rolling contact fatigue (RCF) in railway systems remains challenging with existing measurement technologies in widespread use such as bulk wave ultrasonics, eddy current, and magnetic flux leakage. The ability to accurately estimate RCF depth is important, for example for determining the risk of the damage feature, and for optimizing metal removal for rail reprofiling operations such as grinding and milling. Recently, surface wave ultrasonic inspection has demonstrated good potential for shallow depth RCF damage characterization based on low attenuation, long detection distances, high sensitivity to surface defects, and low susceptibility to changes in surface conditions. This paper reports proof of concept testing to further evaluate the potential use of surface wave ultrasonic measurement for shallow depth RCF characterization. A prototype benchtop system developed by Peak to Peak Measurement Solutions is used to conduct fundamental tests with a range of transducer frequencies and geometric arrangements on a steel test block with machined features intended to represent surface damage at suitable depths. The basic feasibility, sensitivity, and correlation of measured signals is reported and analyzed to assess the technology at a proof of concept level, setting the stage for future testing and practical evaluation.

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