One-Week Virtual Short Courses Available

RailTEC invites you to attend one or both of our one-week railway engineering short courses. Week One focuses on Track Engineering Fundamentals while Week Two focuses on Railroad Project Design. Both courses will be held in July 2021 and each course will run virtually on Monday – Thursday for four hours each day. Participants earn 14 professional development hours. Past attendees include rail professionals, engineers, planners, consultants and more from employees throughout the rail industry.  Registration is open now. For more information, click here to go to the Railway Engineering Short Course website.

Track Engineering Fundamentals
12-15 July 2021 | Noon-4pm CDT
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
19-22 July 2021 | Noon-4pm CDT
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

The course focuses on three general topic areas (track structure design, track geometry/project design and train resistance/motive power/rolling stock).  Attendees with a stronger background in one area can still learn about other aspects of railway engineering and the interrelationships between them. In gaining a greater appreciation for the holistic view of rail transport as a system, attendees can make better engineering decisions in the future. The short course is an excellent networking opportunity to meet others engaged in various facets of the rail industry.



CEE Announces 2021 Rail Scholarship Recipients

RailTEC would like to congratulate the following 2021 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Rail Scholarship Recipients. They are:

Matthew Parkes – Albert J. Reinschmidt Scholarship in Railway Engineering

Xinhao Liu – Michael W. & Jean D. Franke Family Foundation Scholarship

Kevin Di – Norman and Mary Carlson Scholarship

Avin Arefzadeh – CN Railway Transportation Scholarship

Matthew Parkes – CN Railway Transportation Scholarship

More information about each of the scholarships can be found below.

Albert J. Reinschmidt 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.

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.

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.

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.

Barkan Speaker for Transportation and Sustainability Panel

Professor and RailTEC Director Chris Barkan was one of four panelists invited by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Energy and Environmental Law Society to discuss legal and policy issues around the topics of transportation and sustainability. The event, titled American Transportation Infrastructure in the Climate Change Era, was held on Thursday 25 February and attracted over 50 attendees.

The panel was a conversation about how the unique features of American government, business, and law intersect with the need for alternative methods of transportation, beyond personal automobiles powered by fossil fuels. Panelists included both Illinois professors as well as industry professionals. Click here to see a flyer from the event.

RailTEC Students Awarded Scholarships

Five RailTEC students were named winners of American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) Educational Foundation 2021 scholarships. Congratulations go out to Matt Parkes, Lee Evans, Geordie Roscoe, Brevel Holder and Jiaxi Zhao. These five students represent over a third of AREMA’s award recipients this year.

Over the past 19 years the AREMA Educational Foundation has helped over 400 engineering students by providing scholarships to those who are specializing in the railway industry. During this period RailTEC has received between one and twelve scholarships each year for a total of 115 awards. This year the scholarship program was restructured to create a more consistent generic AREMA Educational Foundation scholarship. For a complete list of 2021 winner names and their awarded scholarship, click here. To learn more about the AREMA Education Foundation scholarships, click here.

December Graduates

Congratulations go out to two of RailTEC’s graduate students. Leonel (Lee) Evans and Matheus Trizotto Silva both completed the necessary requirements to obtain their Master of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in December 2020. While with RailTEC both students participated in innovative rail research giving them an edge when starting their career after graduation. Lee obtained his BS in Civil Engineering from UIUC in 2019 while Matheus received his BS in Civil Engineering from the Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina, Brazil in 2018.

Passing of Dr. Ernest J. Barenberg

Dr. Ernest J. Barenberg

It is with great sadness that RailTEC received news of the passing of Dr. Ernest J. Barenberg on January 19, 2021.  Dr. Barenberg, CEE professor emeritus and alumnus, was instrumental in establishing and growing the Railroad Engineering Program, the forerunner to the current Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC).

Starting in the early 1980’s, Dr. Barenberg continued the legacy of rail research and teaching at Illinois that had been under the leadership of the renown Dr. William W. Hay from 1947 to 1977.  Dr. Barenberg developed a program encompassing all aspects of rail engineering (civil, mechanical, and electrical). While the program funded many rail research projects across multiple departments, Dr. Barenberg’s primary interest was railroad track systems, given his deep understanding of the performance of concrete pavements and transportation facilities.

Dr. Barenberg served as director of the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Affiliated Laboratory at Illinois from its inception in 1983 until his retirement in 1998, when Professor Christopher P.L. Barkan arrived at Illinois.

For Dr. Barenberg’s detailed obituary, please click here.

Railway-themed K-12 STEM Outreach Activities

A new Guidebook for Railway-themed K-12 STEM Outreach Activities is now available. It contains descriptions of educational activities designed to introduce students to the railroad transportation mode through the lens of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts. The activities in the guidebook cover a wide variety of railroad topics and the hands-on activities are intended to provide students with knowledge through experiential learning that also increases their awareness of railway transportation technology. The guidebook has chapters which provide a step‐by‐step guide to each activity, however teachers are encouraged to experiment with modifications to each activity and create their own activities on other facets of the railroad industry and STEM topics.

Guidebook activities include:

1) Railcar Puzzle and Commodity Matching Game (3.2 MB)

2) Railcar Size and Weight for Different Freight Shipment Density (1.4 MB)

3) Wheel-Rail Dynamics: How Railcars Travel Around Curves (2.2 MB)

4) Train Rolling Resistance (3.1 MB)

5) Locomotive and Train Simulators (1.2 MB)

6) Railroad Track Construction (1.8 MB)

7) Edible Railroad Track Construction (1.0 MB)

8) Single-Track Railway Operations Simulation Game (2.5 MB)

9) Classification Yards and Railcar Sorting (4.1 MB)

10) Intermodal Transportation Game (2.1 MB)

11) Railroad Safety, and Potential Collaborators, Educational Opportunities and Resources for Additional Learning (1.1 MB)

This guidebook was funded by the National University Rail (NURail) Center, a Tier-1 USDOT University Transportation Center, and the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association.


RailTEC Contributions to TRB

RailTEC will make a positive impact again this year at the 100th Annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) Meeting. RailTEC students, faculty, staff and alumni are referenced over 60 times in the meeting program, including 36 authors. Click here for a guide to 2021 RailTEC contributions at TRB.

 Dr. Avery Grimes

In addition, RailTEC alumni Dr. Avery Grimes, who was formerly the TRB Rail Chair, has been formally appointed as the TRB Technical Activities Council (TAC) Chair starting in April 2021.  Illinois assistant professor Eleftheria (Ria) Kontou will also be serving on the TAC representing the TRB Young Members Council. 

The 2021 TRB annual meeting is a virtual event and will be held throughout the month of January. Committee Meetings will be held January 5–8 and 11–15 while sessions and exhibits are on January 21–22 and 25–29. The spotlight theme for the meeting is Launching a New Century of Mobility and Quality of Life. It will feature dozens of sessions on how COVID-19 has impacted transportation and how transportation professionals and researchers are responding.  This meeting covers all transportation modes, addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions.

Join Us This Spring

Christopher Barkan – Professor and George Krambles Director – RailTEC
C. Tyler Dick – Lecturer and Principal Railway Research Engineer

The University of Illinois has the strongest, most highly respected rail engineering program in North America and our graduates have excellent employment opportunities.  Three rail transportation and engineering courses will be offered in the Spring 2021 semester.  All three courses are approved options for advanced technical electives for a Primary or Secondary in Transportation Engineering.  Additional information on the rail courses is provided below, including instructor contact information.

We hope to see you in one or more of these courses!


CEE 410 – Railway Signaling & Control  (Course Catalog Link)

Rail transportation of passengers and freight requires specialized technology, operating practices, and control systems to safely and efficiently move trains from origin to destination. The nature of rail vehicles and infrastructure, specifically the steel wheel on steel rail, enables highly efficient transportation, but it also imposes substantial requirements on the train control system unique to rail transport.  There are three fundamental elements of a train control system: management of train movement authorities, communications, and speed control.  The course begins with an introduction to these concepts and then covers railroad operating rules, stringline diagrams, temporal and spatial train separation, block system concepts, and radio-based train dispatching.  Then track circuit technology and its role in train position monitoring and basic automatic block signaling is presented, followed by train braking mechanisms, stopping distance calculations and their relationship to signal spacing.  The course then introduces more complex signaling and train control problems related to diverging routes, bidirectional signaling on single track, coded track circuits, cab signaling, and automatic train stop and speed control.  The last section of the course covers interlocking concepts and function, centralized traffic control, and positive train control (PTC). Field trip(s) to observe signal system infrastructure and a visit to a railway dispatching and control center will be scheduled if circumstances permit.

Spring 2021 • Online Lectures and Weekly Discussion Group Meeting
Instructor: Professor – Christopher Barkan, Ph.D.

CEE 411 – Railroad Project Design and Construction  (Course Catalog Link)

This course provides a comprehensive, integrated understanding of the planning, design and construction of a railroad engineering project from concept through to operation.  The course focuses on five elements of a railroad project: Planning, Economic Justification, Design, Surveying and Construction.  Through a series of integrated design assignments, students identify, gather and analyze the necessary information, to plan, design and manage a new railroad construction project.  The course also introduces students to MicroStation and Bentley Rail Track design software as applied to railway design projects.

Spring 2021 • Tu/Th 12:30-1:50 PM • Online or 1311 Newmark Civil Engineering Lab
Instructor: Lecturer & Principal Railway Research Engineer – Tyler Dick, Ph.D., P.E.

CEE 498 TSR- Transportation Safety and Risk  (Course Catalog Link)

This course introduces students to multi-modal transportation safety and risk analysis. Topics covered include transportation safety and risk management framework, qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative risk assessment techniques, structuring decision problems, overview of hazardous materials transportation, transportation-mode-specific risk assessment methods for highways, railroads, pipelines and inland waterways, and transportation security. The course focuses primarily on freight transportation risk assessment but the methodologies taught can be adapted to passenger transportation and these applications will be presented as well. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be capable of performing mode-specific and multimodal transportation engineering risk analyses.

Spring 2021 • Tu/Th 2:00-3:20 PM • Online
Instructors: Professor – Christopher Barkan, Ph.D.
and Postdoctoral Research Associate – Chen-Yu Lin, Ph.D.