A two-noded thin conical shell finite element is made use of to predict the stresses in railroad wheels when subjected to lateral and vertical loads. These stresses are compared with the results presented in the literature which have been obtained by using a triangular ring element. A reasonable agreement is found between the two cases. The advantages of the conical shell element over the triangular ring element in terms of computer time and memory are then discussed. A typical case is taken and it is shown that the conical shell element is about 30 times more efficient than the triangular ring element and requires 10 times less memory in the analysis of railroad wheels. © 1991.