A novel wheel–rail contact model is proposed to be implemented for multi-body dynamics simulation, in order to facilitate accurate online calculation of damage phenomena such as wear and rolling contact fatigue. The normal contact, i.e. contact patch and pressure distribution, is calculated using a fast non-elliptic algorithm called ANALYN. The tangential contact, i.e. tangential stress distribution, stick–slip division and creep force calculation, is treated using an alternative to the FASTSIM algorithm that is based on a strip theory which extends the two-dimensional solution of rolling contact to three-dimensional contacts. The proposed contact model is compared to the Hertz+FASTSIM model and evaluated using the CONTACT code in terms of contact patch and stress distribution as well as creep force curves. The results show that the proposed model can significantly improve the estimation of the contact solution both in terms of creep force estimation and contact details, such as stress distribution, needed for damage predictions.