Stress- and strain-controlled tests of heat treated high-strength rail steel (Australian Standard AS1085.1) have been performed in order to improve the characterisation of the said material's ratcheting and fatigue wear behaviour. The hardness of the rail head material has also been studied and it has been found that hardness reduces considerably below four-millimetres from the rail top surface. Historically, researchers have used test coupons with circular cross-sections to conduct cyclic load tests. Such test coupons, typically five-millimetres in gauge diameter and ten-millimetres in grip diameter, are usually taken from the rail head sample. When there is considerable variation of material properties over the cross-section it becomes likely that localised properties of the rail material will be missed. In another case from the literature, disks 47 mm in diameter for a twin-disk rolling contact test machine were obtained directly from the rail sample and used to validate ratcheting and rolling contact fatigue wear models. The question arises: How accurate are such tests, especially when large material property gradients exist? In this research paper, the effects of rail sampling location on the ratcheting behaviour of AS1085.1 rail steel were investigated using rectangular-shaped specimens obtained at four different depths to observe their respective cyclic plasticity behaviour. The microstructural features of the test coupons were also analysed, especially the pearlite inter-lamellar spacing which showed strong correlation with both hardness and cyclic plasticity behaviour of the material. This work ultimately provides new data and testing methodology to aid the selection of valid parameters for material constitutive models to better understand rail surface ratcheting and wear. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.