Critical fatigue safety state is investigated on RD2 type axle of China railway freight cars. Attention is paid on the grooves near axle boxes, where more fatigue cracks were early appeared even result in at least six derailed accidents. Load history was obtained by vehicle dynamics simulation combining with on-line inspection. Braking loads and effects of maintenance and off-round of wheels are also incorporated. Semi-elliptical and external circumferential cracks are employed for crack growth simulation. Crack shape change and shear stressing of the semi-elliptical crack are taken into account. New crack growth rate modeling in which covers from cracking threshold to toughness related fracture state is applied for residual life evaluation. Critical fatigue safety state is defined as the crack size from which the axle can be safely operated to next overhaul inspection. Critical crack size is estimated step-by-step with the crack shape change. Results show that the external circumferential crack is more dangerous than the semi-elliptical crack. Application more than two years in production verifies that the present assessment is available and reliable.