Alternating current field measurement (ACFM) sensors can be used to detect surface breaking defects in metal components. In rails rolling contact fatigue (RCF) cracks form due to the wheel–rail contact stresses. These cracks are surface breaking and can have complex shapes. A COMSOL model has been developed for a commercial ACFM system and RCF cracks in rails. In this paper model results are compared to experimental measurements using an ACFM pencil probe for calibration defects machined into a rail and real RCF defects (light and moderate categories; <20 mm surface length) in a rail removed from service. X-ray tomography has been used to determine the size and morphology of the real RCF cracks for input into the model. It has been shown that the model can be used to determine the change in normalised Bx signal due to the presence of calibration defects machined into a new rail. The model has also been used to compare the experimental data for the real RCF cracks to the reconstructed model cracks and a semi-elliptical approximation to their shape.