Low-Temperature Brittle Fracture in a Steel Tank Car Because of Weld Imperfections
A railway tank car developed a fracture in the region of the sill and shell attachment during operation at -34 deg C (-30 deg F). On either side of the sill-support member, cracking initiated at the weld between a 6.4 mm thick frontal cover plate and a 1.6 mm thick side support plate. The crack then propagated in a brittle manner upward through the side plate, through the welds attaching the side plate to a 25 mm (1 in.) thick shell plate (ASTM A212, grade B steel), and continued for several millimeters in the shell plate before terminating. Other plates involved were not positively identified but were generally classified as semi-killed carbon steels. Investigation (visual inspection, hardness testing, chemical analysis, Charpy V-notch testing, and drop-weight testing) supported the conclusions that the fracture was initiated by weld imperfections and propagated in a brittle manner as a result of service stresses acting on the plate having low toughness at the low service temperatures encountered. Recommendations included that the specifications for the steel plates be modified to include a toughness requirement and that improved welding and inspection practices be performed to reduce the incidence of weld imperfections.