Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Agricultural and Biological Engineering

First Advisor

Monika Ivantysynova

Committee Member 1

Charles Krousgrill

Committee Member 2

John Lumkes

Committee Member 3

Andrea Vacca


This dissertation aims at showing how to transform hydraulic systems of railway multi-actuator machinery characterized by inefficient state-of-the-art systems into the 21st Century. Designing machines that are highly efficient, productive, reliable, and cost affordable represents the target of this research. In this regard, migrating from valve-controlled architectures to displacement-controlled layouts is the proper answer. Displacement-controlled systems remove the losses generated by flow throttling typical of conventional circuits, allow an easy implementation of energy recovery (e.g. during regenerative braking), and create the possibility for the use of hybrid systems capable of maximizing the downsizing of the combustion engine. One portion of the dissertation focuses on efficient propulsion systems suitable for railway construction and maintenance machines. Two non-hybrid architectures are first proposed, i.e. a novel layout grounded on two independent hydrostatic transmissions (HSTs) and two secondary controlled hydraulic motors (SCHMs) connected in parallel. Three suitable control strategies are developed according to the specific requirements for railway machines and dedicated controllers are implemented. Detailed analyses are conducted via high-fidelity virtual simulations involving accurate modeling of the rail/wheel interface. The performance of the propulsion systems is proven by acceptable velocity tracking, accurate stopping position, achieving regenerative braking, and the expected behavior of the slip coefficients on both axles. Energy efficiency is the main emphasis during representative working cycles, which shows that the independent HSTs are more efficient. They consume 6.6% less energy than the SCHMs working with variable-pressure and 12.8% less energy than the SCHMs controlled with constant-pressure. Additionally, two alternative hybrid propulsion systems are proposed and investigated. These architectures enable a 35% reduction of the baseline machine’s rated engine power without modifying the working hydraulics. Concerning the working hydraulics, the focus is to extend displacement-controlled technology to specific functions on railway construction and maintenance machines. Two specific examples of complete hydraulic circuits for the next generation tamper-liners are proposed. In particular, an innovative approach used to drive displacement-controlled dual function squeeze actuators is presented, implemented, and experimentally validated. This approach combines two functions into a unique actuator, namely squeezing the ballast and vibrating the tamping tools of the work-heads. This results in many advantages, such as variable amplitude and variable frequency of the tamping tools’ vibration, improved reliability of the tamping process, and energy efficient actuation. A motion of the squeeze actuator characterized by a vibration up to 45 Hz, i.e. the frequency used in state-of-the-art systems, is experimentally confirmed. In conclusion, this dissertation demonstrates that displacement-controlled actuation represents the correct solution for next-generation railway construction and maintenance machines.