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A cast steel bracket manufactured in accordance with ASTM A 148 grade 135/125 steel failed in railroad maintenance service. Ancillary property requirements included a 285 to 331 HB hardness range and minimum impact energy of 27 J (20 ft·lbf) at -40 deg C (-40 deg F). The conditions at the time of failure were characterized as relatively cold. Investigation (visual inspection, chemical analysis, and unetched 119x and 2% nital etched 119x SEM images) supported the conclusion that the bracket failed through brittle overload fracture due to a number of synergistic factors. The quenched-and-tempered microstructure contained solidification shrinkage, inherently poor ductility, and type II Mn-S inclusions that are known to reduce ductility. The macro and microscale fracture features confirmed that the casting was likely in low-temperature service at the time of failure. The composition and mechanical properties of the casting did not satisfy the design requirements. Recommendations included exerting better composition control, primarily with regard to melting, deoxidation, and nitrogen control. Better deoxidation practice was recommended to generate the more desirable Mn-S inclusion morphology, and reevaluation of the casting design was suggested to minimize shrinkage.

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