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April 17-19,2001



Kinh D. Pham, P.E. Ralph S.Thomas, P.E. & Walt E. Stinger, P.E.
Elcon Associates, Inc. LTK Engineering Services
Portland, Oregon Portland, Oregon

Abstract: neutral will be examined and discussed.

In the first part of the paper, we will look at a PART 1: STRAY CURRENT MODEL WITH
stray current model under the ideal conditions U"0RMLY DISTRIBUTED TRACK-TO-
with uniformly distributed track-to-earth EARTH RESISTANCES
resistances and develop the track-to-earth
potentials and stray current relationships Introduction:
within a segment of track. We then will
expand the model to include buried metallic Historically, rails have been considered as the
structures in the vicinity of the track using least expensive negative return conductor for dc
field theory to calculate the potential traction electrification systems. Designers of
gradients generated due to flow of rail current modem dc rail transit system must address the
and show that a potential difference following issues about rails:
experienced by a crossing or paralleling
underground structure that traverses these 0
Traction power engineers want to use the
gradients could cause stray current corrosion. rails as a continuous negative return
We will discuss the limitations of these conductor for traction current and
models with the actual conditions such as possibly to ground the rails temporarily
non-uniform track-to-earth resistances, when the high rail potential rise could
non-uniform soil resistivities. pose a danger to personnel and
In the second part, we will look at the stray
current model when there are inadvertent 0
Signal engineers may want to isolate the
breakdowns in the track insulation. The rails by section, and thus use them as
points of rail insulation breakdown may be power frequency train control circuits for
approximated using the spherical ground track occupancy indication.
electrode model and equipotential lines to
illustrate the flow of stray current. Common 0
Corrosion engineers want to insulate
grounding of the substation negative bus, rails from ties and ballast to minimize
substation ac ground mat and electric utility stray traction power currents as a cause
of corrosion.

These different and conflicting demands must
be dealt with and satisfied. To maintain
continuity for dc traction current and allow
rail isolation for track circuits, impedance
bonds will be used. Stray currents can be
mitigated effectively by increasing the track-
to-earth resistances. However, this could
elevate the track-to-earth voltages under
certain operating conditions.

This paper will mainly focus on stray current

control, track-to-earth potentials and
grounding of the traction power substation
negative. Various circuit models are
developed to analyze stray current and track- % : RESISTANCE OF NEGATNE R m R N CIRCUIT
to-earth potentials under various conditions.


Basic Stray Current Model


To illustrate the basic components affecting I, : LEAKAGE CURRENT TO EARTH AT M E LOAD END .
the levels of stray cunents generated by a dc I, : CURRENT RENRNING TO M E SUBSATION THROUGH EARTH
traction power system, a simple radial feed y : SUBSTATlON VOLTAGE

circuit model is shown in Figure 1. This %. : TRACK-TO-EARTH VOLTAGE AT THE Lon0 END
model assumes that the resistance of the
overhead contact system to ground is very
high and there is no coupling between the
positive circuit and earth.

From this model, the three basic components

which control the level of leakage stray
Figure 1- Basic Stray Current Model
currents to ground are:
Although these three items are interrelated as
IT :The train current.
described later in subsequent parts of this paper,
VN :The voltage developed
each item must be considered separately.
across the negative circuit
. The.magnitude of the train current(IT)required
. RL&RS :The eflective resistance
to operate a light rail vehicle is power
between the negative circuit
dependent, Le., for a stated power requirement
and earth.
to provide for a certain acceleration under a
given set of conditions, the current required will
vary depending on the voltage. Hence, an

increase in operating voltage would allow a as RL&R,. Theoretically, we could reduce the
proportional decrease in the current, and stray current by increasing RL&R, to very high
would be a benefit to stray current limitation. values.
Most modern dc transit systems are designed
for the 600 to 800Vdc range. Seattle Sound Stray Current Model Used For Computer
Transit Link light rail will be the first modem Simulation
light rail system that utilizes 1SOOVdc in
North America. The actual model generally used for computer
stray current studies is shown in Figure 2. The
One consideration in maintaining train actual dc powered transit system utilizes a
operating voltage within acceptable limits number of traction power substations that are
and minimizing the generation of stray interconnected, and finite negative circuit to
currents as the vehicle moves away from the earth resistance. The characteristics of the
power source is to keep the substation as negative return circuit or running rails are those
close to the point of maximum load as of a distributed network.with a unit length of
possible. This may require the use of more track(s) composed of longitudinal resistance of
substations than otherwise would be the rail conductors and the track-to-earth
necessary. resistances.

The second factor requiring consideration is Train movement and current draw is a
the resistance of the negative return circuit, continuously changing situation in a transit
referred to as RN in Figure 1. Stray current is system. The model shown in Figure 2 is a
a function of the track circuit potential or dynamic circuit model and one approach that we
negative rail potential. This potential, V,, is have found very useful in analyzing stray
the voltage developed across the negative currents is to take snapshots of the dynamic
return rail fiom the substation to the train and system with various train operating conditions,
it depends on the train current&) and RN. different traction power substation locations,
There are two basic approaches to maintain varying the resistances within the negative and
the voltage developed across the negative positive circuits, changing the effective negative
return system within the desired limits, circuit to earth resistances, etc.
assuming a given propulsion power
requirement: a) Increase the conductance of This type of computer study provides the
the negative return circuit; b) Reduce the information that can be used as the basis for
maximum distance between the load and decisions regarding what level of stray currents
power source as also noted above, which could occur under various loading and operating
means spacing between traction power conditions. This information provides a basis
substations would need to be reduced, which for evaluating the stray current effects on
may result in an increase of the number of underground utility or other underground
substations. metallic structures and decisions on trade-offs
between stray current control versus mitigation.
The third factor affecting the stray current
magnitudes in the model of Figure 1 is the
negative circuit to earth resistance, referred to

rail connections for special trackwork.
Cross-bonding between rails to maintain
equal potentials of all rails.
Insulating the impedance bond tap
connections fiom the housing case.
Insulating switch machines at the switch
Utilizing separate traction power
substations for the main line, yard and
shop. Shop tracks are solidly grounded
for maintenance personnel safety.
Installing rail insulators to electrically
isolate the mainline from the yard and
the yard from the shop.
Maintaining as close substation spacing
as practicable.
Maintaining electrical continuity in
tunnel liners and reinforcing steel.
Maintaining an on-going maintenance
Figure 2-Computer Simulation Stray program that monitors rail-to-earth
Current Model resistance values, keeps trackbed areas
clean and well-drained.
Stray Current Control
Track-to-Earth Voltages
The following accepted rail industry
standards have been used in recent rail transit As mentioned earlier, stray currents can be
system designs to achieve an electrically controlled effectively by increasing the track-to-
isolated rail system to control stray currents: earth resistance values. However, a well
insulated negative return system will also cause
a Insulating pads and clips on concrete the increased track-to-earth voltages.
a Insulating direct fixation fasteners on The relationships between the voltages, V, ,V,
aerial structures. and VGs& shown in the basic circuit model of
Coating the rails and encasing the Figure 1 are summarized below:
track slab with an insulating
membrane where the rails are
embedded in the roadway areas.
a Minimizing the stray current leakage
path through raivballast contact by
maintaining the ballast at a minimum
of 1-inch below the bottom of the
0 Bonding 'railjumpers at mechanical

The profile of negative rail potential with R, is equal to 1 . 5 ~ ~ .
respect to distant earth is shown in Figure 3,
with an isolated substation negative bus. Consider:

R, = 1Sp, = 1.5 x 1OOohms = 150 ohms, based

upon ps = 100 ohm-meters for surface resistivity
of wet concrete floor.

R2= 1000 ohms( intemal body resistance for an

average person)

The current passing through the body is:

I= E amperes
1 I50 ohms

where E is the touch potential.

Figure 3- Negative -to-ground potential
I = 2.Oma(minimumperception), E = 2.3 V
The main concem which relates to this
voltage is the human body’s safety fiom I = 60.Oma(maximumthreshold), E = 69.OV
touch potential. The rail transit industry has
not standardized the acceptable limits of I = 80.0 ma(maximum allowable), E = 92.0V
negative return rail potential with respect to
ground. Each transit agency has set its own Personnel safety can be enhanced by limiting
limits. Based on our past experiences, the the electric current passing through the human
maximum limit ranges from 60 volts to 90 body. There are two ways to achieve this:
volts dc.
e Reduce the touch potential, E, to the
Voltages alone are not harmful. It is the lowest practical values such as 70V or
electric current passing through the human less.
body that gives an electric shock and
e Increase contact resistance for foot and
discomfort, not the voltage. hand.

Human Body Curent Electrical Circuit The following should be taken into
considerations for personnel safety in designing
dc tiaction power system:
The human body electrical circuit include the
feet contact resistance, RI, and the intemal
e Substation ac switchgear and other ac
body resistance, R2.A foot contact resistance equipment enclosures including the pre-
is equal to 3p, ohms, where ps is the surface fabricated substation building enclosure
resistivity in ohm-meters underneath the foot. should be connected to a substation ac
For two feet in parallel, the contact resistance ground mat designed per IEEE std 80.

0 Rectifier and dc switchgear This equation can be used to calculate the
equipment enclosures should be potential difference between any two points in
insulated from ground and connected earth that will be traversed by the underground
to a dc ground mat through either a pipe or other buried structure. It should be noted
high-resistance or a low-resistance that this equation has some limitations: a) soil
grounding system. Refer to reference resistivity, p , in the areas within the given
[2] for additional discussions on high length, E, of the pipe is assumed to be uniform;
versus low resistance grounding. b) theoretically, the presented equation has no
limit, however, the maximum calculated earth
0 Adequate clearance and isolation potential gradient produced by stray current
should be provided between the cannot exceed the track-to-earth potential at a
grounded ac equipment and the given location along the rails; c) assume that the
insulated dc equipment. earth potential gradients between at any two
points are unchanged and will not get distorted
Use high resistivity materials such as due to the presence of pipes .
granite edging, surface coatings, tile
surfaces, etc. to increase passenger Figure 4 illustrates the potential difference
station platform surface resistance. between two points on an uncoated underground
pipe. As shown in this figure, the pipeline is
Earth Potential Gradient Model and Stray modeled as a distributed resistance network.
Current Effects on Buried Metallic Past experience has indicated that earth potential
Structures. gradients at 50mv or below generally introduce
acceptable stray current levels on most uncoated
The earth potential gradient model measures underground pipes or buried structures.
the potential developed between two points in
the earth and the magnitude of this potential -
will have direct stray current effects on r A SOURCE OF CURRENT

buried utility structures. Refer to figure 4, the

earth potential gradient is calculated from the
following equation:


P Soil resistivity, ohm-cm
*. I \ ------ I UNDERGROUND Pl?E
I :Currentfiom source, amperes
dl :distancefiom source to structure EOUlPOiEMlAL LINES

:distancefiom source to structure

I :length of current source(paralle1
Figure 4 Earth Potential Gradient Model

rail), cm

Substation Negative Return Grounding the event the potential exceeds a predetermined
voltage and time setting, the corresponding
Negative system grounding at the substation thyristor (depending upon the polarity) will
is employed by some modem rail transit activate thus clamping the negative bus to
authorities to limit the rail-to-earth potentials. ground. Once activated, the thyristor will
This is accomplished by diode grounding, continue to conduct until the current reduces to
contactor/switchgrounding, or thyristor zero or until the polarity reverses across the
grounding. thyristor.

When there is a ground fault between the In an underground system, there is no direct
OCS and ground, the area in the vicinity of metallic connections between earth and the
the fault could subject to a high voltage of rectifier negative bus. This system obviously
750 Vdc. Since the return circuit back to the has least stray leakage current but could have
traction power substation is closed via the high negative potential to ground. More on
earth to track because the substation negative substation negative return grounding is
bus is isolated, the ground fault current can discussed in the second part of this paper.
be relatively low and the time it takes for the
dc feeder breaker to clear the fault will be PART 2: USING SPHERICAL ELECTRODE
unduly long. A diode grounding device will MODEL TO ANALYZE STRAY CURRENTS
provide a return path from the ground to the WHEN THERE ARE INADVERTENT
substation negative bus and thus enable faster BREAKDOWNS IN TRACK INSULATION
fault clearing. However, the grounding
diodes will also allow system leakage current Introduction:
to return to the substationsthus creating a
lower resistance path for stray current leaving The Basic Stray Current Model and the
the rails. Computer Model discussed in the first part of
this paper have the limitation that they only
Contactors equipped with voltage sensing apply when the track-to-earth resistance is
relays are also used for negative bus relatively uniform, or put another way, the total
grounding. The voltage sensing relays will resistance of the track is distributed evenly over
detect the high track-to-earth voltage its length. It cannot be used to predict the
situations and close the grounding contactor behavior of the traction electrificationreturn
to connect the negative bus to ground system, rails and rail isolation if there is a
temporarily for personnel safety. ground on the return rails.

The traction electrificationdesign engineer is

The third negative grounding method is using
interested in predicting the behavior of the
the floating negative automatic grounding
traction electrificationsystem under all
switch which consists of dc potential and
conditions, including where grounds are present
current monitoring circuits and two thyristors
on the return rails when the rails are used as the
connected to provide bidirectional control of
negative return, as in modem light rail and
current flow between the negative bus and
trolley systems.
ground. The circuitry monitors the potential
between the negative system and ground. In

In this second part of the paper, we would traction power substation ac
like to present a method of calculating stray ground system increase stray
currents through earth, using grounding currents?
theory developed in IEEE Standard 80 -
1986l. 3. If the substation negative return
is grounded through a diode,
Why use the spherical electrode model in contactor, or thyristor, should a
analyzing stray currents? There are several separate dc grounding mat be
reasons: used, and if so, what separation
through ground will be sufficient
e When we discuss currents flowing to attenuate flow of stray current
through earth, a better understanding from the dc system to the utility
will be gained by using Ohms law grounding system?
quantified in terms of electric field
potential strength, soil resistivity, and Spherical electrode analysis with this type of
current density (e=ir). approach requires track-to-earth resistances to
be lumped and concentrated at an equivalent
e Resistance to earth is concentrated in electrode. Secondly, it will be necessary to
shells closely surrounding a ground convert earth resistance to electrode radius in
electrode, so a discussion of the meters, as we shall see.
electrode itself is important to
understanding how currents flowing We have chosen the spherical ground electrode
fiom it through earth behave. as a beginning point to represent a solid ground
anywhere on the rails since it is the simplest to
e By varying the radius of electrodes, analyze. Another consideration is that even
we can simulate varying resistances- though the magnitude of the resistance to earth
to-earth and we can model and is determined by the type and size of electrode,
explore how the system behaves when once the distance fiom the electrode exceeds
the track is grounded, and explore several times the radius of the electrode, the
many other topics related to design resistance of the earth to the flow of current
such as: becomes negligible. We could have as easily
chosen a driven rod as an electrode, however we
1. Does grounding the substation are not primarily interested in the characteristics
negative bus 'through a diode, of the electrode itself, rather how we may define
contactor, or thyristor increase a ground on the rail system that might represent
stray currents? conveniently as possible an actual physical rail
to earth connection, and provide a mathematical
2. Does connecting the utility basis for modeling the results of such a
grounding system to the connection.

'Portions of this discussion and accompanying figures

are taken directly h m IEEE Std 80 Appendix H,and reprinted
here with permission. Copyright 1986 IEEE. All rights reserved.

where: E= Potential (volts)
I=Total current (amps)
e=electric_fieldstrength (volts)
p=soil resistivity (ohm-meter)
B=radius of spherical electrode(meters)

The relationshipbetween electric field strength,

voltage, and distance, can be shown graphically,
Fig 5 - Spherical Electrode
as in Figure 6.
The surface area of a sphere is given as 4 d .
Consider a sphere with only the lower
hemisphere buried in earth with uniform
resistivity as shown in Figure 5, such that the
area in contact with earth is given by 2 d . If
a current I flows through this electrode to
ground, the current density i is evenly
distributed over the surface of the sphere, and
at a distance x from the center of the
hemisphere is given by:

I-- Fig 6 - Potential Versus Distance in Surface Layer

Where i=current density (ampheter)

According to Ohms law, an electric field of The total voltage between the spherical
intensity e (see Figure 6 ) is generated when electrode and distant earth (where x = a)can be
such a current flows through soil with a derived from equation (3):
resistivity p.
(4) E=p-
I 2 d
2m2 From this expression, the resistance of the
electrodeto distant earth can be computed:
The voltage E can then be computed as the
line integral of the field strength from the
surface of the conducting sphere of radius B (5)
to the distance x.

distant earth becomes negligible for all practical
Example: purposes.

As a hypothetical example, typical track Definition: “Distant earth ’’may be thought

gauge is 4 feet 8-112 inches, or approximately of theoretically as an imaginary
1.43 meters. We can approximate a ground sphere an infinite distance fiom
on the rails by assuming an electrode with the electrode, and at zero
radius of 1.43 / 2 = 0.71 meters. For soil potential
resistivity of 100 ohm-meters, the ground
resistance of this electrode will be: Flow of Current Between Two Electrodes

In order to explore the relationships between

R =- lo* =22.4 ohms various grounds such as the utility grounding
2 ~ 0 . 17 system and the traction electrification negative
In practice, this approximation may represent return system, and in particular between utility
an abnormal condition where a section of rail ground and the traction power substation ground
has been solidly grounded inadvertently, or mat, we are interested in the special case where
perhaps a failure of the rail isolation system. current flows between two electrodes. It is
possible to construct a network using two
Choosing the radius of the electrode will electrode systems, and this will give us a tool to
determine the resistance to earth of the model a system, by simply knowing the voltage
electrode. If we wanted to represent the between electrodes, and the resistivity of the
direct connection to earth of one failed rail soil.
fastener, the effective radius would be
approximately one-half the width of the rail.

For a single electrode, the resistance to earth

is concentrated in the proximity of the
electrode as shown in Figure 6. Indeed, half
of the voltage drop caused by the current
injection into the grounding electrode would
appear within one diameter of the electrode.
Earth is a relatively poor conductor with a
resistivity about 1 billion times that of
copper. The resistance to earth may be
imagined to consist of equal thickness I
concentric spherical shells about the Fig 7 - Two Electrode System
electrode. The inner shell will represent the
largest incremental value of resistance, since Refer to Figure 7. Assume that we have two
the resistance is inversely proportional to the spherical electrodes of different radii B and by
distance fiom the electrode, and will each with one hemisphere buried in
therefore drop the largest voltage. After homogenous earth with uniform resistivity.
several electrode diameters, the resistance to These electrodes could represent any two points

on the rail, a grounded negative return, or a that to another ground on the negative system.
ground on the electric utility.
The rail-to-earth isolation for modem electric
Definition: “Sphere of Influence” means railways is typically tested to 500 ohms per
an imaginary surface at which 1000 feet of single direct fixation track under
the electricfield potential worst case conditions. Under ideal conditions,
surrounding an electrode given dry high resistivity soil, this value can be
becomes zero. (For purposes much larger, in the range of 1000 ohms per 1000
of this paper we will dejine the feet of single track or higher. This leakage
sphere of influence to extend resistance is usually considered to be distributed
to where theJieIdstrength has throughout the length of the track. These values
been reduced by 95%fiom are achieved through the use of appropriately
maximum) designed insulating track fasteners. (See
Appendix A Table 1 and Table 2 for rail
Assume that a voltage is applied such that a resistances and track-to-earth resistances used in
current flows into the first electrode, through this paper).
earth, and returns through the second
electrode. Assume also that the two spheres
are separated by a distance x, which is chosen
to locate the electrodes far enough apart so as
to be outside of the sphere of influence of
each other. At this distance, the voltage E
will be independent of the distance x between
the electrodes.

By application of equation (3) to both

electrodes, an expression may be derived
which gives the resistance of the path
between the two electrodes.
Figure 8 Grounded Negative Model

Where RL=track-to-earthelectrode resistance at

the load end (to distant earth)
R,=track-to-earth electrode resistance at
the source end (to distant earth)
Note that this equation is not valid if R,=resistance of negative return circuit
electrodes are arranged in parallel or located
within each other’s sphere of influence.

Grounded Negative Return Model Consider Figure 8, above. Here we define a

traction electrificationsystem consisting of a
One of the models we would like to develop single traction power substation (TPSS), with
depicts a substation with a grounded negative the retum current flowing though the rails of a
return bus such as through a diode, and relate

single direct fixated track. We define the
resistance of the negative return to be &.
We also define a low resistance ground
electrode RLon the track at a distance x from rp b x]
the substation, and the voltage on the track at
this point is defined to be V, . The voltage
V,=O when referenced to the rail, but since Note that where the distances between the two
we are interested in earth potentials we note electrodes is large enough to be outside of the
that the potential fiom V, to distant earth may sphere of influence of either, the term 2/x
not be zero. becomes negligible. Rewriting the above
expression in terms of the train current and
The substation negative return bus is resistance of the negative return, this expression
intentionally diode grounded by an electrode becomes:
of resistance R,, and an ammeter inserted in
the grounding lead so that we may measure I,= 2WN
the current which returns to the TPSS .I-+---
1 1 21
through earth. For our purposes, we assume r[B b x]
that both electrodes can be modeled as
spheres. Further, we assume that the soil is
homogeneous, of constant resistivity, The magnitude of leakage (stray) current 4, can
“distant earth” is at zero potential, and all also be expressed as a function of the distance
current flowing through the rail electrode will fiom the substation x along the rails:
return to the substation electrode through the
ammeter and the TPSS grounding electrode.

The voltage V, - VIat any point on the track

a distance x fiom the TPSS is then the
product of rail return current I,, and the
resistance of the single track RNbetween the
point x and the TPSS. This equation can be The potential distribution across the surface of
expressed as follows: the earth caused by stray current leaving one
electrode and flowing into the second electrode
can be shown to be similar to Figure 9, below:

where r, is the rail resistance fiom Table 2

expressed in ohms per meter.

In order to develop an expression for the

“stray” current I, returning to the TPSS fiom
the rail electrode through the ammeter, we
can then combine equations 6 and 7, and
solve for current I,:

Solution: We can substituting directly into
equation (9) and the solution is:

274 1000)(0.0000155)(304.8~
1 1 2
10 0.1 304.8

I=0.02939 Ampere

Fig 9 - Surface Potential between Two Electrodes.

Expanding the use of Spherical Electrodes on
The currents flowing between the two the Traction Electrification System
electrodes distribute themselves as shown in
Figure 10, below: In Part 1 of this paper, we discussed the Basic
Stray Current Model, and the Computer
Simulation Model. We would now like to
expand the concept of using spherical electrodes
to model more than two grounded points on the
negative return system. The premisses are:

The negative return system can be

modeled using spherical electrodes to
represent connections to earth, either
>-- intentional or inadvertent
THROUGH EARM Theflow of current through earth@om
one grounded node on the track of
higher potential to another grounded
Fig 10 - Current Paths Through Earth Between node on the track of a lower potential
may be calculated howing the potential
to distant earth of each point, the
Example: Given a constant flow of train resistivity of the soil, and the eflective
retum current of 1000 amperes through a size of each electrode.
single track (2 rails), using 115 RE rail with a
resistance of 1.55 x OhmsMeter, and a Currents may be added by superposition
track-to-earth resistance of 500 ohms/l 000 ft to calculate the total currentflowing
(304.8 Meter), uniform soil resistivity of 100 into or out or nodes on the track
Ohm-Meter, a TPSS electrode of radius 10
meters, and a rail electroderadius of 0.1 Consider Figure 11, below:
Meter, what will be the magnitude of the
stray current flowing through the ammeter
shown in Figure 8?


Fig 11- Basic Stray Current Model using Spherical Fig 12 - Nodal Circuit Diagram

Note that in this simplified diagram, distant

Here, we have drawn the circuit, developed earth is not shown, but has been accounted for
fiom Figure 8, to indicate distant earth as a in the development of the equations. For a three
separate node, and the various nodes node network we can represent each node as a
associated with the circuit. We have spherical earth electrode, and calculate the stray
defined paths for current to flow fiom points currents flowing between each pair of nodes
on the single track (2 rails) to and fiom using equation (9):
distant earth, which represents connections to
ground on the system.

However, we can re-draw the circuit as

shown in Figure 12, using only 3 nodes and
equation (9),and calculate all the currents
flowing through earth among nodes.

For ease in notation, we again label the nodes

as 1,2,3, respectively. The current among
nodes are given as 13*,IZ1,131. We may
calculate either an exact solution, or an
approximate solution. Since the expected
magnitude of the train current is expected to
be 1000- 10,000 times greater than the
currents flowing through earth, for simplicity
and approximate analysis we may neglect
subtracting the stray currents fiom the train
current at the node junctions, and treat IT as a
constant. The resulting circuit is shown in Where:
Figure 12, below:
b,,b, b, = radius of each node electrode

respectively (meters)
I,=Total Train Current (Amps)
r,,=resistance of rail between
po ints(ohms)
x=distance between nodes (meters)

By using superposition and Kirchoff s laws,

we can find the currents flowing into or out
of each node:


Fig 13 - Electric Utility Grounding System

The electric utility grounding system is a multi-

This approach permits easy exploration of point grounded system. The utility distribution
topics such as determining the magnitudes of network provides power to many individual
stray currents caused by grounding the electrical services or substations, each of which
negative return through a diode. We can also has at least one grounding electrode. Within a
explore whether a separate dc grounding mat residence or industrial or commercial building,
should be used to ground the negative bus, the electric grounding electrode is connected to
and if so, what separation through ground the water pipe, and structural steel and even
will be sufficient to attenuate flow of current concrete reinforcing steel, if present. Most
fiom the dc system to the electric utility modem distribution three phase medium voltage
grounding system. systems carry a grounded conductor with the
phase conductors, often as a concentric neutral
Grounding the Electric Utility to the wound around each phase conductor. The
Traction Power Substation Negative grounded conductor provides a low impedance
Return return path for the circuit's ground fault
protective device. Since most metallic electrical
We would like to discuss one special appliances within a building or residences are
condition where the Traction Power also grounded to this system, it also provides
Substation features a single ground bus and some measure of protection to people against
ground mat, and both the serving electric electric shock fiom potential differences.
utility and the traction power substation
negative return are grounded to this same The electric utility multi-point grounded system
mat. Consider Figure 13, below: provides a major problem for electric railroads if
there is a connection from the substation
negative return to the utility ground, thus
effectively establishes another negative return
system in parallel with the tracks and in direct

contact with other underground metallic system, but the rails may carry currents
structures. Modern corrosion control generated by the utility system, and this may
methods seek to minimize possible potentials happen in a way that is difficult to predict or
between the tracks and underground utilities analyze. It is possible that utility currents
by using track insulating systems, and flowing over the rails can also cause
isolating metallic underground utilities by abnormalities in the train protection signal
coating, or changing materials fiom metallic, system, which is a fundamental safety concern.
to non-metallic. In some cases, utilities will
choose to protect their metallic systems by In conclusion, it appears qualitatively desirable
passive means, such as sacrificial anodes, or that the design engineer isolate the utility
active means, such as impressed current. ground system fiom the negative return as far as
practical by not grounding the utility neutral to
The electric utility system does not lend itself the negative return, and by not placing the dc
easily to modeling, since by definition, its grounding electrode within the sphere of
grounding electrodes are randomly placed, influence of the utility grounding system. In
and tied together through grounded addition, care must be taken if the utility neutral
conductors and system neutral conductors, is connected to the substation ac ground mat, to
and these are in turn tied to underground isolate the dc grounding electrode by locating it
piping. For this reason, we need to approach outside the sphere of influence of the ac mat.
this problem in a qualitative way.
For a moment, let us return to the two
electrode model. We know that a difference One common misconception we have
in potential between two points on the encountered is a belief that there is a
surface of the earth will cause a flow of relationship between current flowing through
cment through earth fiom a point of higher earth between electrodes, and the distance apart
potential to lower potential. We also know the electrodes are spaced. We can see that the
that in order for one electrode to be magnitude of current flowing between two
considered “isolated” fiom the other, each electrode points is a function of soil resistivity,
must be located outside of the others sphere the potential between the electrodes, and the
of influence. When we tie the negative return size of the electrodes ,as long as each electrode
to the electric utility grounding system, either is located out of the sphere of influence of the
directly and solidly by using a conductor, or other. Space does not permit discussion in this
indirectly, by locating the electric utility paper of all aspects of dc traction power
ground within the sphere of influence of the grounding. However, further effort is needed to
dc ground mat, we may expect increased explore related topics: types of grounding
stray current to flow since the electric utility systems and traction electrification grounding
ground system is widely distributed and well system design philosophy, lightning arrester
within the sphere of influence of many grounding, stray current monitoring systems,
underground metallic structures . Worse, track-to-earth monitoring and protection, ground
since the utility return is now in parallel with fault sensing and protection and the use of high
the negative return, we may expect that under speed circuit breakers for mitigating the effects
certain conditions not only will the utility of touch and step potentials,.
carry stray current fiom the dc traction


IEEE Guidefor Safety in AC Walt E. Stinger, Jr. is a senior systems engineer

Substation Grounding, ANSIAEEE with LTK Engineering Services. He has worked
Standard 80-1986 on numerous rail transit projects for the past 36
years. A registered professional engineer, Walt
Kinh D. Pham, “Grounding of received his BSEE degree fiom Drexel
Traction Power Substations”, University in 1964.
proceedings of the 1989, APTA Rapid
Transit Conference, Pittsburgh, PA. Ralph S. Thomas is a senior systems engineer
with LTK Engineering Services. He has worked
Ralph S . Thomas, Kinh D. Pham, on rail transit projects since 1981. Ralph is a
“Design of Grounding Systemsfor registered professional engineer in Oregon and
Tri-Met Portland Westside Light Rail four other states. He received his BSEE degree
TractionPower Substations”, from Portland State University in 1977.
proceedings of the 1999 IEEEIASME
Joint Rail Conference, Dallas, TX. Kinh D. Pham is a principal electrical engineer
with Elcon Associates, Inc. He has worked on
Ray E. Shaffer, “Design rail transit projects since 1981. Kinh is a
Considerationsfor DC Powered Rail registered professional engineer in Oregon and
Rapid Transit Systems to Minimize seven other states. He received his BSEE degree
Stray Currents”,proceedings of the from Portland State University in 1979 and
1982 International Corrosion Forum, earned his MSEE degree fiom the University of
Houston, TX. Portland in 1982 and has completed his Ph.D
course work in electrical engineering at PSU.
S.D. Jacimovic, “SubstationSpacing
for DC LRT Systems Based on Rail
Potential and Stray Current Limits”,
proceedings of the 1986 Rapid Transit
Conference, Miami,FL.

K. J. Moody, “Stray Current Control

and Platform Voltages”,proceedings
of the 1989 APTA Rapid Transit
Conference, Pittsburgh, PA.

Dev Paul, “Operational Safety and

Maintenance Considerationsfor
People Movers’ DC Grounding
System”, proceedings of the 1988
APTA Rapid Transit Conference ,
Buffalo, NY.

Rail-to-Earth Resistance, Rail Resistance, and Average Soil Resistivity:

Track Type English Units Metric Units

Direct Fixation 500 1.5 x 105
Single Track (2 Rails) Ohms/l 000 ft OhmsMeter

r Direct Fixation
Double Track (4 Rails)
0.75 x 105

Embedded (Paved)
Double Track [ 4 Rails)
0.3 x io5
Timber Tie & Ballast 50 0.15 x 105
Double Track (4 Rails) Ohms/l 000 ft OhmsMeter

Rail Type English Units Metric Units

Single Rail (New) 0.05 3.1 x 10-5
Ohms/mile OhmsMeter
Single Track (New) 0.025 1.55 x 10-5
Ohms/mile OhsMeter

I ~~~
Type of Soil
I p, Ohm-

Wet Organic Soil 10

Moist Soil 1o2
Dry Soil 103

Bed rock io4

Factors Limiting Uniform Soil Resistivity

Throughout this paper we have assumed uniform soil resistivity as a basis for our mathematical models,
which implies homogenous composition of the soil. Such is not the case in the real world. The resistivity of a
single soil type varies with its composition - whether it is clay, sandy, or loamy (see Table 3), and with how various
types of soil are distributed throughout the earth. The geologic strata we find in nature are likely to vary widely, not
only over the surface of the earth, but also in depth. Consider the following Figure B-1 ,taken directly from IEEE
80-19862,below, which shows the great variance in soil types in a typical geographical area:

Figure B-1 Subsoil Strata under Main Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

The soil resistivity of a particular sample depends not only upon the soil composition, but with the moisture content,
temperature, humidity, and chemical composition. Some of these factors will vary with weather conditions. Hence,
taken together, these limiting factors suggest that rigorous, precise, mathematical analysis of how currents flow in
earth over large areas is not practical, nor would it necessarily result in a high degree of accuracy. It follows that
such an analysis might also not be economically feasible and justify the intense labor required. It does suggest that
a less rigorous analytical approach using abbreviated mathematical models coupled with data from a soil resistivity

Portions of this discussion and accompanying figuresare taken directly fiom IEEE Std 80 Appendix H, and reprinted here with
permission. Copyright 1986 IEEE. All rights reserved.

field investigation together could result in
the most practical and cost effective
analysis for large geo,gaphical areas, such
as a rail line. It also suggests that when
calculating much smaller site-specific
problems related to earth currents, such as
sizing substation ground mats, that the
soil resistivity be determined from local
site investigation.

.. We would like to touch very briefly upon
I one other constraint affecting earth
calculations underground metallic
Figure B-2: Long Pipe in Extended Ground Field utilities. Borrowing again from IEEE SO',
Figures B-2and B-3 depict a long pipe
buried in an extended ground field, and a
short pipe buried in an extended ground field. We have added the track to the figures to establish orientation of the
track to the electric field. Note that a buried pipeline parallel to the track establishes a region of conductivity, and
this is depicted as a different resistivity fiom surrounding earth, adding a complexity to calculating underground
currents. When the pipe becomes short or irregular, the complexity increases as the flow of current and electric
potential field is distorted.

In summary, when making calculations involving underground currents, be aware that there are limiting factors
which restrict the degree of accuracy which may be obtained by calculations.


Figure B-3: Short Pipe in Extended Ground Field

Portions of this discussion and accompanying figures are taken directly fiom IEEE Std 80 Appendix €and
I,reprinted here with
permission. Copyright 1986 IEEE. All rights reserved.