The development of wheel–rail contact models is an active topic of railway research with the dual objective of improving the accuracy of multibody simulations and reducing its computational effort. This paper extends the online Hertzian contact model, proposed by Pombo et al. (Veh. Syst. Dyn. 45: 165–189, 2007) to propose a non-Hertzian contact model. The new methodology presented here includes the following steps: (i) search of the points of contact; (ii) identification of the undeformed distance function; (iii) evaluation of the contact patch; (iv) calculation of the normal and tangential contact forces; (v) application of the contact forces in the multibody vehicle model. Among several contact models available in the literature, this non-Hertzian contact approach uses the Kik–Piotrowski model for the normal contact force, while the tangential forces are obtained from the interpolation of the available Kalker Book of Tables for non-Hertzian (KBTNH) contact. With the purpose to demonstrate the proper implementation and selection of parameters that define this new model, several contact analysis and dynamic simulations are performed in which the wheel S1002 and the rail UIC50 are considered. First, the contact analyses that determine the contact condition of different wheel–rail interactions serve to assess the accuracy of the Hertzian and non-Hertzian models with respect to the software of reference CONTACT. Second, the Hertzian and non-Hertzian models are utilised to perform dynamic simulations of a wheelset, a bogie and a vehicle running in tangent and curved tracks. In short, this work provides, not only a complete description of the implementation of a non-Hertzian contact model in a multibody code, but also suggests for the proper selection of the parameters that promote better accuracy and optimal computational efficiency.