Riley Edwards ASLRRA Webinar Speaker

One of the guest speakers for the Thursday, 29 October 2020 American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) webinar was J. Riley Edwards, RailTEC Senior Research Scientist and Senior Lecturer. Riley presented on the topic “Using 3D Lasers & AI Innovations in Track Inspection” with Cam Stuart, Program Manager, Office of Research, Development, and Technology, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Richard Fox-Ivey, Principal Consultant, Rail Industry, Railmetrics.

This webinar described the field deployment and validation of a new approach being developed in partnership with the FRA that could help railroads with track inspection. This new approach pairs three-dimensional (3D) machine vision with Artificial Intelligence (a deep convolutional neural network) and change detection technology.  The speakers presented details relating to the process for 3D image capture on the High Tonnage Loop at TTCI, training the Artificial Intelligence for feature identification, and the detection of changes related to clips, spikes, end of tie ballast levels and joint bar bolting between repeat runs.

INFORMS RAS International Webinar Speaker – Tyler Dick

The speaker for the Wednesday, 21 October 2020 INFORMS Railway Applications Section (RAS) International Webinar Speaker Series was C. Tyler Dick, RailTEC Lecturer and Principal Railway Research Engineer. Over 80 online participants listened as Tyler presented “Network Efficiency Cycle: Quantifying Yard and Mainline Railway Capacity and Performance Connections”.  His presentation summarized research to understand and quantify relationships between the capacity and performance of both classification yards and mainlines, these disparate yet complementary facilities. This was the fourth online webinar in the RAS International Webinar Speaker Series which was organized to feature operations research and advanced analytics applications and good practices in the railway industry with speakers from both academia and industry. Click here to see a list of webinar speakers and find the link to a video recording of Tyler’s presentation.


Join Us for the Virtual Railroad Environmental Seminar

Sign up now for the Virtual Railroad Environmental Seminar (vRRES) and join over 275 registered railroad employees, consulting engineers, regulators, legal professionals, academics and other experts from the industry. To date, vRRES has representation from eleven countries. Technical presentations will occur on 27-28 October from 10 AM – 1:30 PM Central Time. View the full program here. There is no charge to attend, though there is a $50 fee for participants that wish to receive 5 Professional Development Hours (PDHs). Keynote Speaker Dr. Nancy Knowlton, Ph.D., N.A.S. from the National Museum of Natural History with the Smithsonian Institution will be discussing “Earth Optimism: Learning from Successes in Conservation and Sustainability”. If you have any questions, please email:

Where are they now?: Sam Chadwick

Samantha Chadwick

RailTEC alumna, Samantha Chadwick, was featured in the Graduate College at Illinois Grad Life blog. Sam is a triple Illinois Civil Engineering graduate (B.S. M.S, and PhD) which all started at Engineering Open House 2008.  The interview catches up with Sam to see where she is now, what a normal day looks like and what surprised her most about her current job. It also talks about her recent experience teaching at the Tashkent Institute of Railway Engineering in Uzbekistan as part of the Fulbright Specialists program. Click here to read the entire article.

Three RailTEC Instructors Ranked Excellent

Congratulations are in store for three RailTEC instructors who taught classes during AY2019‐2020.  (L-R) Tyler Dick (Spring 2020, CEE411‐ Railroad Project Design & Construction), Riley Edwards (Fall 2019, CEE409‐ Railroad Track Engineering) and Conrad Ruppert, Jr. (Fall 2019, CEE409‐ Railroad Track Engineering) were all rated as excellent on the University of Illinois’ “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students“. These lists are determined by student ratings of instruction. The ratings are based on Instructor and Course Evaluation (ICES) questionnaire forms. Click here to see a complete listing of CEE faculty who earned this distinction.

RailTEC Student Awarded Inaugural Scholarship

RailTEC graduate research assistant, Lee Evans, is an inaugural recipient of a Railway & Locomotive Historical Society (R&LHS) scholarship. Four awardees received R&LHS scholarships this year, which are named in honor of the R&LHS members who made the scholarships possible. The awardees are graduate and advanced undergraduate university students studying aspects of railroad history and operations.

Lee, who has extensive experience in railroad museum operations, received a George W. Hilton scholarship. Hilton was an economics professor at UCLA, and an accomplished historian, writing a number of books on railroads and ships. He died in 2014 at age 89.

The R&LHS scholarship program is open to students majoring in history and transportation/transportation logistics, or other majors where the student’s work has a demonstrated connection to railroad operations and history. Applications open January 1 and must be submitted by March 31. Recipients are notified at the end of June.

Participation at AREMA 2020 Virtual Conference


Faculty, staff, students and alumni participated in the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) 2020 Virtual Conference & Expo on September 13 – 17, 2020. RailTEC was represented by 11 presentations and two alumni served on the Meet the Next Generation Panel Discussion. The National University Rail (NURail) Center, a rail-focused seven university consortium led by RailTEC, had a virtual booth.

RailTEC presentations were:

  • Quantifying the Relative Influence of Classification Yard Performance Factors
    Tyler Dick, PhD, PE, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • A Risk Management Tool to Evaluate Adjacent Track Accidents on Shared-Use Rail Corridors
    Chen-Yu Lin, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Track Technical Presentation: Field Investigation of Load Environment in Revenue Service Track with Railroad Spike Failures Systems
    Marcus S. Dersch, PE, Matheus Trizotto and Christian Khachaturian, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Laboratory Structural Investigation of the of Heavy Rail Transit Direct Fixation Fastening System Capacity
    Arthur De Oliveira Lima, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Ravi Amin, PE, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)
  • Understanding Influences on Student Pursuit of Railway Education and Careers
    Lee Evans, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Using Advanced PTC with Moving Blocks to Improve the Operational Feasibility of Short Trains on Single-Track Rail Corridors
    Adrian Diaz De Rivera, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Artificial Intelligence-Aided Prediction of Broken Rail Occurrence Using Railroad Big Data
    Xiang Liu, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Artificial Intelligence-Aided Railroad Trespassing Data Analytics based On Camera Video Data at Grade Crossings
    Xiang Liu, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Adaptive Prestressing System for Concrete Crossties using Shape Memory Alloys and Steel
    Minsoo Sung and Bassem Andrawes, PhD, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • History of Heavy Axle Load Subgrade Research at Facility for Accelerated Service Testing (FAST)
    Stephen Wilk, PhD, Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI)
  • Using LIDAR To Detect Rockfall – A Case Study of Using COTS Equipment for a Safety Critical Application
    Paul Shih, BNSF Railway and Mark Aston, LB Foster

    RailTEC alumni Meet the Next Generation Panel Discussion participants were Anna Delheimer – BNSF Railway (top row, center) and Giovanni DiDomenico – Kiewit Engineering Group (top row, right).

RailTEC Personnel to Lead AREMA Committees

C. Tyler Dick, Lecturer and Principal Railway Research Engineer, and Marcus S. Dersch, Principal Research Engineer, took over leadership responsibilities of two different American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) committees starting in September 2020.
Tyler is the Secretary of AREMA Committee 16 – Economics of Railway Engineering & Operations. His term will last for three years. Among its many areas of focus Committee 16 is responsible for the development and publication of current information regarding railway location and route comparison studies, train performance, locomotive characteristics, railway operation and engineering records. Committee 16 also manages the W. W. Hay Engineering Excellence Award.
Marcus is the Chair of AREMA Committee 30 – Ties. This committee is responsible for the development and publication of recommended practices and information relating to characterization of the load environment and performance of cross ties in track; specifications for design of concrete to be used in the manufacture of concrete ties or switch ties; design and use of concrete ties, including devices or systems for fastening rail to the ties; and evaluative tests for tie systems. Marcus has been the Vice-Chair for the past three years.

Trains Magazine Showcases PSR Panel

Trains Magazine wrote an article about a three-person panel which discussed Precision Scheduled Railroading at the Virtual Midwest Rail Conference. Tyler Dick, RailTEC lecturer and principal railway research engineer, was a member of that panel and presented “Operational Aspects of Precision Scheduled Railroading”. Over 270 participants attended the second Midwest Rail Conference which was held on August 11-12. The theme was “Sustaining Midwest Rail”. Click here to read the article.

Three Fall 2020 Rail Transportation and Engineering Course Offerings

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 Fall 2020 semester.  All three courses are approved options for advanced technical electives for a Primary or Secondary in Transportation Engineering.  Additional information on the three Fall 2020 rail courses is provided below, including instructor contact information.

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


CEE 408 – Railroad Transportation Engineering  (Course Catalog Link)

Rail transportation systems require infrastructure, vehicles, motive power and energy to move goods and people. Rail technology spawned a transportation revolution that continues to substantially influence national and global markets. This course begins with the fundamental economics of rail transportation. This is followed by consideration of railroad rolling stock design, running gear and other mechanical components, train braking system design, function, and dynamics, and locomotive design, operation and function. The course covers quantitative analysis of train resistance, power and energy requirements, effects of aerodynamics, grade, and curvature, and their effect on speed, power, and acceleration. Railroad track system design, components, roadbeds, and maintenance needed to support safe and efficient movement of railway vehicles is also covered. The course concludes with an introduction to passenger rail transportation, high-speed rail, and the technical and operational challenges of increasing speed and frequency of passenger service on existing freight rail corridors.

Fall 2020 • Online Recorded Lectures and Live Discussion Group

Instructor: Professor – Christopher Barkan

CEE 409 – Railroad Track Engineering  (Course Catalog Link)

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 are to provide the student with a fundamental understanding of basic railroad track engineering principles, concepts, practices and technologies. The course also includes the development of a comprehensive track design project in a team setting.

Fall 2020 • Tu/Th 2:00-3:20 PM • Online or 1311 Newmark Civil Engineering Lab

Instructors: Sr. Lecturer & Sr. Research Scientist – J. Riley Edwards and Adjunct Professor – Conrad Ruppert

CEE 412 – High-Speed Rail Engineering  (Course Catalog Link)

This course provides an introduction to the development, engineering, design and construction of a high-speed rail (HSR) passenger transport systems with particular emphasis on the unique engineering elements of HSR technology.  Students will learn about the features of the HSR system and its subsystems including: core systems (trains, power, signal, communication and control), track system and civil infrastructure (earthwork, bridges, viaducts and tunnels). The course also covers basic design and construction of HSR stations and rolling stock maintenance facilities.

Fall 2020 • Tu/Th 11:00-12:20 PM • Online or 3310 Newmark Civil Engineering Lab

Instructors: Adjunct Professor – Conrad Ruppert and Adjunct Professor – Tsung-Chung Kao