Rail Vehicle Dynamics Simulation

Multibody system simulation for rail applications

Rail vehicles are complex systems and their performance is determined by the interaction of multiple components, including the rail-wheel-contact interface, suspension, bogies, couplings and other moving parts. Optimizing and understanding these interactions, is essential to ensuring vehicle safety, speed, reliability and comfort. The complexity and sheer length of trains, makes simulating their running dynamics, which must account for all possible relative motions between the individual components, a challenging engineering problem to solve.

Multibody System Simulation (MBS) is the only technology making it possible to analyze and understand the complete system dynamics, without requiring a physical prototype. MBS enables engineers to build up a virtual prototype, allowing virtual testing very early in the development cycle. A thorough exploration of the design space can be conducted, considering numerous KPIs, in order to find the optimum design between competing alternatives, faster and much cheaper than by performing physical tests. The value of MBS continues into the service life of the vehicle, through (but not limited to) simulation-aided maintenance, accident investigations, and warranty/misuse case investigation.

The wheel-rail contact is the most influential characteristic on the overall dynamic behavior of a rail vehicle. This contact plays a role in almost all the high-level challenges of the railway industry including:

  • Safety and reliability of operation: vehicle derailment stability on the tracks.
  • Passenger comfort: Track irregularities excite the vehicle through the contact interface.
  • Maintenance costs, radiated noise and energy efficiency: all are influenced by the wear of rail and wheel surfaces.

Due to the high stiffness metal-to-metal contact, and the complex friction behavior between the surfaces, wheel-rail contact mechanics are difficult to solve. To correctly simulate the rail-vehicle dynamics, an accurate rail-wheel contact calculation is essential. Simpack technology offers fast, accurate and robust rail-wheel contact algorithms, allowing non-elliptical contact and multiple contact patches per wheel.

This video gives a high-level overview to develop, optimize and virtually validate the dynamics performance attributes for rail vehicles using simulation capabilities of Dassault Systèmes. It focusses on multiple aspects like providing a safer and comfortable journey, reducing the travelling time, predicting tolerances from arbitrary structures and providing predictive maintenance information.

Multibody system simulation (MBS) can be used for the analysis and design of any type of rail-based/guided vehicle or mechanism, from tram cars to complete articulated high-speed trains, as well as specialist applications such as roller coasters, material handling systems and even magnetically levitated trains. Used worldwide by manufacturers and operators, Simpack is the leading MBS software for railway system dynamics.

Rail flyers

Typical applications include:

  • Derailment safety
  • Curving and on-track simulations
  • Critical speed
  • Passenger comfort
  • Profile and track optimization, wear and rail-contact-fatigue
  • Gauging
  • Driveline and braking
  • Switches and crossings
  • Virtual homologation (Certification by simulation)
  • Suspension modeling

Rail Vehicle Dynamics Materials

SIMULIA Motion and Multibody Dynamics Simulation Products

SIMULIA develops simulation technology that can be used to calculate motion and multibody dynamics in a wide range of application areas. Depending on your working environment this technology is available to you in the following ways:

Motion Simulation on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform

The Multibody Dynamics discipline includes technology enabling engineers to simulate the complex non-linear kinematic and dynamic motion behavior and performance of any mechanical or mechatronic system.  The browser-based environment powered by the Simpack multibody simulation solver allows designers and engineers to study the behavior of products mechanisms and systems to validate and improve their performance.

Explore Motion Simulation on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform

3DEXPERIENCE Works Motion Creator

The 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio of cloud solutions brings all your key stakeholders together on a single collaborative platform. The Motion Creator application allows you to seamlessly move from system ideation through to delivery for continuous development and validation throughout the products lifecycle

Explore 3DEXPERIENCE Works Motion Creator


Simpack is a general multibody simulation (MBS) software enabling analysts and engineers to simulate the non-linear motion of any mechanical or mechatronic system. It enables engineers to generate and solve virtual 3D models in order to predict and visualize motion, coupling forces and stresses.

Explore Simpack