In this paper stresss and deflections in composite railroad wheels subjected to lateral and vertical loads have been predicted by using the finite element method. A thin conical shell element is used for the analysis which has advantages in terms of computer time and memory over the conventionally used triangular ring element. Two composite materials and two fiber orientations have been used in the studies. It is found that wheels with radially oriented fibers are better suited than circumferentially oriented ones from the strength point of view. It is also found that the thickness of the web in composite wheels would have to be nearly doubled in order to keep their lateral deflections of the same level as in steel wheels. © 1991.