RailTEC Hosts Hanson and Springfield Student Group

Hanson and RailTEC employees with a group of students from Springfield, IL.

RailTEC welcomed Hanson Professional Services Inc. and a group of students from Springfield, IL to Engineering Open House (EOH) on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) campus on Saturday, 9 April 2022. EOH is an annual student-led event featuring two days of exhibits and competitions that showcase the engineering students and is open to the public at no cost. Hanson’s group of 21 students and adults spent the day examining a portion of over 250 interactive exhibits on display. In addition to viewing the exhibits a representative from the UIUC National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Student Chapter spoke to the group at lunch. RailTEC first began hosting the group in 2014.

2022 Rail Scholarship and Award Recipients Announced

(L-R) Chris Barkan, RailTEC CEE UIUC; Paula Pienton, CN; scholarship recipients Tommy Stogin, Jake Wagoner and Liam Bots; and Michael and Jean Franke.
(L-R) Riley Edwards, RailTEC CEE UIUC; CN Railway Transportation Scholarship recipient Allison Hefner; and Chris Barkan, RailTEC CEE UIUC.

The Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department held its annual Student Awards Convocation on Saturday, 2 April. This event brings together scholarship winners and donors for a luncheon and awards presentation. RailTEC would like to congratulate the following 2022 Illinois rail scholarship and award recipients. They are:

  • Dale Robbenolt – Ira O. Baker Prize
  • Jake Wagoner – CN Railway Transportation Scholarship and Albert J. Reinschmidt Memorial Scholarship in Railway Engineering
  • Allison Hefner – CN Railway Transportation Scholarship
  • Tommy Stogin – Norman and Mary Carlson Scholarship
  • Liam Bots – Michael and Jean Franke Family Foundation Scholarship

Information about each of the awards can be found below.

Ira O. Baker Prize

The purpose of the Baker Prize is to recognize outstanding seniors and is the highest honor a graduating CEE senior can receive. In addition to superior scholastic achievement, CEE faculty select winners based on a student’s activities in organizations and on personal characteristics that include initiative, reliability, and potential. The Baker Prize has been awarded to the top-ranking CEE seniors every spring since 1924. The award is named after Ira O. Baker, a civil engineering faculty member from 1875 to 1925, and Department Head for 39 of the 50 years.

Canadian National (CN) Railway Transportation Scholarship

This scholarship was established in 2018 to encourage and support student excellence in rail engineering and is presented to an outstanding engineering student(s) on the basis of leadership, scholastic performance, and demonstrated accomplishments and interest in railroad transportation at Illinois. It was created as part of CN’s support for RailTEC’s educational programs.

Norman and Mary Carlson Scholarship Fund

Established in 2005, the Carlson Scholarship encourages students to pursue careers in the rail industry. Carlson graduated from the UIUC College of Commerce and Business Administration in 1964, has spent his career in service to the railroad industry, and has written and published extensively on the history and technology of railways.

Michael W. & Jean D. Franke Family Foundation Scholarship

The scholarship is awarded to an outstanding student interested in railroad transportation engineering, as evinced by coursework, participation in rail research, and other railway engineering and transport related activities. The objective of the scholarship is to encourage the candidate to continue railway engineering studies and ultimately pursue a career in the rail-related transportation industry.

Albert J. Reinschmidt Memorial Scholarship in Railway Engineering

This scholarship was founded and sponsored by friends and railroad industry colleagues of Dr. Albert J. Reinschmidt. Reinschmidt earned all of his degrees studying railway engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and went on to a successful career in railway research, engineering practice, and policy with the Association of American Railroads. The scholarship is intended to provide financial assistance to help any civil, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineering student achieve their educational goals in rail transportation engineering and technology with the objective of supporting development of a new generation of engineers advancing rail safety, efficiency, and technological advancement.

Dersch Successfully Defends PhD Dissertation

Marcus Dersch

Marcus Dersch, RailTEC Principal Research Engineer, successfully defended his PhD dissertation on Monday, 4 April. His dissertation is titled “Railroad Track Fastening System Demands and Response: Implications for Mechanistic Design”.  The dissertation advances the M-E analysis and design of fastening systems through the deployment of field instrumentation, execution of experiments in the laboratory, and development and validation of multiple analytical models. Members of his committee were Illinois faculty Chris Barkan, Riley Edwards, Erol Tutumluer and John Popovics. Rounding out the committee was Professor Dr.-Ing. Stephan Freudenstein from the Technical University of Munich who participated via Zoom. Congratulations, Marcus!

(L-R) Erol Tutumluer, John Popovics, Marcus Dersch, Riley Edwards and Chris Barkan. Stephan Freudenstein joined remotely.


Virtual Short Course on Railway Engineering

Following the outstanding success of last summer’s Virtual Short Course, RailTEC will once again be offering two one-week online Railway Engineering Short Courses via Zoom. Each course will run virtually on Monday – Thursday from noon – 4:00pm (Central) and participants earn 14 professional development hours. Past attendees include rail professionals, engineers, planners, consultants and more from employees throughout the rail industry. The short course is an excellent networking opportunity to meet others engaged in various facets of the rail industry. Registration closes on Friday, 01 July 2022. For more information and to enroll, click here.

Track Engineering Fundamentals
18-21 July 2022 | Noon-4pm CDT (via Zoom)
Lead Instructor: Conrad Ruppert

  • Monday: Introduction; Rail; Crossties & Fasteners
  • Tuesday: Ballast & Subgrade; Drainage; Slab Track; Turnouts & Special Trackwork
  • Wednesday: Track Structural Analysis; Track Structural Design
  • Thursday: Track Standards & Inspections; Track Maintenance Technologies; Asset Management & Life Cycle Costs

Railroad Project Design
25-28 July 2022 | Noon-4pm CDT (via Zoom)
Lead Instructor: Tyler Dick

  • Monday: Introduction; Horizontal Track Geometry
  • Tuesday: Vertical Track Geometry; Cross Sections & Earthwork
  • Wednesday: Railroad Location; Location Referencing & Track Charts
  • Thursday: Project Phasing; Project Cost Estimation



Registration Now Open

RailTEC is excited that the International Crosstie and Fastening System Symposium will be an in-person event this year on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus on 24-25 May 2022.  This two-day event will be held in conjunction with the AREMA Committee 30 (Ties) spring meeting on 26-27 May. The objective of the symposium is to further international communication and collaboration on design and performance challenges and solutions for crossties and fastening systems.

For more information about the 2022 Symposium and to register please visit our webpage.  The registration fee includes symposium technical sessions, luncheon keynote addresses and dinners both nights. The Rail Transit Keynote speaker is Robert Powers, General Manager, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and the Class 1 Keynote is John Cech, Vice President of Engineering, BNSF Railway. Recorded presentations will be available to in-person attendees and post-conference registrants after the event. Abstracts will be accepted until March 31.

RailTEC Faculty Rated Excellent

Congratulations to RailTEC faculty Chris Barkan and Riley Edwards for making the Fall 2021 “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students”. These lists are compiled by the University on a semester basis and reflect student ratings of instruction. Click here to see a complete listing of Illinois faculty who earned this distinction.

During the Fall Chris taught CEE 595 HAL – High-Efficiency Freight Rail and Riley taught CEE 409 – Railroad Track Engineering. More information on these classes can be found below.

CEE 409 – Railroad Track Engineering

Railroad track is the backbone of a railway network and a key element of the vehicle-track system. Its primary functions are to support and distribute train loads, guide rail vehicles and facilitate drainage. The safe and efficient movement of trains requires that track is properly designed, constructed, inspected and maintained. The objectives of this course were to provide the student with a fundamental understanding of basic railroad track engineering principles, concepts, practices and technologies. The course also included the development of a comprehensive track design project in a team setting.  Finally, a field trip was planned to observe railroad track and engage in “hands-on” track construction and maintenance activities. This class is typically offered in the fall semester.

CEE 595 HAL – High-Efficiency Freight Rail

This graduate seminar featured a series of visiting speakers with expertise and direct experience with properly managing the changes the railroads face as they continuously evolve to take advantage of the economies of scale made by possible by their inherent capacity to move larger, heavier materials in greater quantities through use of larger, higher capacity freight cars, and longer trains.  Beyond the technical content, this graduate seminar emphasized the critical role of engineers as creative problem solvers.

Apply Now for High School Summer Program in Rail

With funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Michigan Tech and Penn State Altoona have teamed up to offer 60 high school students across the U.S. an exciting opportunity to learn about rail in a Summer 2022 program titled “Tracks to the Future: Railroad Transportation and Engineering”. Learn what forms modern railroad track, explore railway equipment from around the globe, and analyze the latest operations, communication and control systems. Find out how it all works through virtual sessions, hands-on activities, and field visits to railroad facilities.

All applicants who are accepted for the program will receive scholarships that cover the program fees. This includes all materials plus camp staffing, overnight accommodations in a campus residence hall, meals and insurance for the on-campus portion of the program. Campers are responsible for their own travel expenses to and from their assigned campus host. This hybrid program will feature a virtual portion (at home) that runs July 11-12 with a two-day visit at one of the three partnering campuses (max. 20 on each campus) on July 14-15. Wednesday, July 13 is a travel day.

Applications are due by April 10th.  Don’t wait – encourage your favorite student to get an application in today!

More information on the program and how to apply can be found at our Tracks to the Future web site.


Tracks to the Future Program Sponsored by:


Hybrid Program Host Universities:

RailTEC at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


Rail Transportation & Engineering  (RTE) Program at Penn State Altoona


Rail Transportation Program (RTP) at Michigan Tech


RailTEC PhD Students Award Winners

Congratulations to RailTEC PhD students Jiaxi Zhao and Geordie Roscoe who won the 2021 INFORMS Railway Applications Section Problem Solving Competition with their solution “Arrival Time Estimation for Unit Trains Utilizing Train Matching Techniques”. This competition was during the 2021 INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) annual meeting held on Sunday, October 24, 2021 – Wednesday, October 27, 2021 in Anaheim, CA. It had over 6,500 attendees in a hybrid format.

  Jiaxi Zhao (L) and Geordie Roscoe (R)

CEE Magazine Fall 2021

The Fall 2021 issue of the CEE Magazine features three items pertinent to RailTEC. First, Paula Pienton (BS 85), Chief Engineer, Bridges & Structures at CN and President of the CEE Alumni Board of Directors, has a full page dedicated to her campus visit, including CN’s receipt of the AREMA W.W. Hay Award for their replacement of the longest timber trestle in North America, the McComb Spillway in Louisiana. There is also an item about current Ph.D. student Geordie Roscoe (MS 21) receiving the CN Fellowship in Railroad Engineering and a piece about Xiang Liu (MS 11, PhD 13), Assistant Professor at Rutgers University. Xiang was recognized for his professional accomplishments and received the Young Alumni Achievement Award.

Click here to read the full issue of the magazine.

RailTEC Contributions at 101st TRB

RailTEC faculty, staff, students, and alumni will have a strong showing next week at the 101st Annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) meeting in Washington, D.C. on January 9 – 13, 2022. In total there are over 50 separate references, including 31 authors, 2 session chairs, and 4 committee meeting chairs. Click here for a guide to 2022 RailTEC contributions at TRB.

This in-person event will focus on the spotlight theme for the 2022 meeting: Innovating an Equitable, Resilient, Sustainable, and Safe Transportation System.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will be the keynote speaker. This conference typically attracts thousands of transportation professionals from around the world and the meeting program covers all transportation modes, with more than 400 sessions and workshops addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions.