News Archive

Participation at 2022 AREMA Conference

The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) 2022 Annual Conference & Expo, was held 28-31 August at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Twenty-four RailTEC students and staff attended the conference. During the opening session, Illinois alumni John Cech, Vice President, Engineering at BNSF, was announced as the 2022 recipient of the Engineer of the Year Award by Railway Track & Structures (RT&S) Media. Each year RT&S awards one industry leader with their Engineer of the Year award. Click here to read the RT&S article.

In addition to attending technical presentations and sessions designed specifically for student participants, Illinois students created two teams of five to battle in the AREMA Committee 24 Collegiate Quiz Bowl Competition. Team 1, which consisted of Matt Parkes, Shashank Muddana, Dan Mueller, Thomas Stogin and Michael Copley, finished in second place after a breathtaking loss to Penn State Altoona in a sudden death match after being tied at the end of the last round. Team 2 consisted of Elie Roudiere, Teresa Talio, Wang Shi and David Wasilewski, and finished in fifth place. The student contest consisted of four rounds of ten questions related to railroad engineering, operations, history and trivia.

RailTEC presentations at AREMA this year were:

  • Class I Demonstration of LRAIL 3D Laser Scanning and Change Detection Technology and Development of Track Component Heath Indices (TCHIs) – J. Riley Edwards, PE, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and John Laurent, P.Eng., M.Sc., Pavemetrics
  • Case Study Comparison of Hazardous Material Unit and Manifest Trains Considering Mainline and Yard Risk – Di Kang, Rutgers University and Jiaxi Zhao, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Investigation into Longitudinal Track Resistance | A Critical Parameter for Track Loading and RNT Establishment – Marcus S. Dersch, PE, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Field Evaluation of Under Tie Pad Impact to Track Performance – Arthur de Oliveira Lima, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Erik K. Frohberg, BNSF Railway

Winner of 2022 Hay Award for Excellence Announced

Michael Franke (L) presenting the 2022 Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence on Monday 29 August

For the past 24 years AREMA has recognized outstanding national and international achievement in railway engineering while honoring the memory and accomplishments of an Illinois faculty member by awarding a Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence. This year the award went to CSX and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for their project, “Carolina Connector Intermodal Project.” The project created the 310-acre “Carolina Connector Intermodal Terminal” (CCX) located in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and is the newest and most advanced, state-of-the-art intermodal terminal on CSX’s system. The terminal serves as a vital link connecting railcars and trucks to transport products and goods across North Carolina and the country and represents a true public-private partnership success. To watch a video detailing this project, click here.

Hear more about Hay Awards in Season 2 Episode 4 of AREMA’s podcast: Platform Chats as the host, Walt Bleser, talks to AREMA members Michael Franke (Chair of the Hay Award Selection Committee, Senior Director, State Government Contracts (Ret) Amtrak), Christopher Barkan (Professor, George Krambles Director – Rail Transportation and Engineering Center – RailTEC, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Matthew Fletcher (Railway Market Principal, Hanson Professional Services, Inc.)

You can also read about the history of the Hay Award in an article written by Chris Barkan and Mike Franke. This piece is featured on pages 34-35 in CEE’s Magazine Summer 2022.


RailTEC Attends 15th Annual Summerail Conference

(L-R) Conference organizer Forrest Van Schwartz, UI students Akira Oniyama, David Wasilewski, and Xinhao Liu, and conference organizer David Clarke from University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Three RailTEC students attended the 15th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Freight Rail Committee AR040 Summerail ’22. This two day conference, which was designed to bring together railroad professionals, government officials, and academics to discuss the past, present, and future of the U.S. railroad industry, was held on 17-18 August in Michigan City, Indiana. It included a full day of presentations, a visit to the National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart, IN and travel on the South Shore Line between Carroll Avenue Station and South Bend.

RailTEC master’s student Xinhao Liu presented his research on “Effect of Tank Car Placement on Hazardous Material Train Derailment Severity” while undergraduate student David Wasilewski presented “Innovations in Track Inspection: Using 3D Laser Scanning Data for Condition Change Detection”. The third student attending the conference was Akira Oniyama.

2022 Railway Engineering Short Course

Since its first class in 2015, RailTEC’s Railway Engineering Short Course has grown by leaps and bounds. The initial in-person one-week class of nine students has grown into a virtual format with over 125 participants. This year students participated from Canada, the Philippines, the UK, and twenty different U.S. states.

On 18-21 July 2022, lead instructor Conrad Ruppert, Jr. taught the Track Engineering Fundamentals course with 69 students. Tyler Dick was the lead instructor for the Railroad Project Design course taught on 25-28 July 2022 with 58 participants.

Attendees included rail professionals, engineers, planners, consultants and more from employees throughout the rail industry. They earned 14 professional development hours and had an excellent networking opportunity to meet others engaged in various facets of the rail industry.

Check back for announcements concerning our 2023 Short Course offerings.

“Tracks to the Future” Summer Camp a Success

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Michigan Tech and Penn State Altoona teamed up this summer to offer nearly 50 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”. Illinois hosted 16 campers from Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey.

Through virtual sessions, hands-on activities, and field visits to railroad facilities, students learned what forms modern railroad track, explored railway equipment from around the globe, and analyzed the latest operations, communication and control systems. They also learned how rail compares with other modes and leads the charge in reducing transportation greenhouse gas emissions. This hybrid program featured a two-day at-home virtual portion that ran 11-12 July with a two-day visit at one of the three partnering campuses on 14-15 July. Wednesday, 13 July was a travel day.

Successful camps are not possible without the extraordinary help from others. A huge thank you to the following groups:

  1. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for funding the camp and all participant costs
  2. Monticello Railway Museum (MRM) volunteers for opening up the museum especially for the group on a day they are normally closed, and hosting an amazing experience for the campers
  3. Coordinators and camp counselors at the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) program at Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering for taking care of the group after hours
  4. RailTEC grad students for their volunteer service

Seven RailTEC Presentations Given at WCRR 2022

Eight RailTEC faculty, staff, and students traveled to Birmingham, UK for the 13th World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR). WCRR was held 6 – 10 June 2022 and is a major gathering for the global railway research and innovation community to exchange state-of-the-art ideas and develop connections with other research institutions. The theme for the 2022 conference was “Reshaping our railways post-pandemic: Research with an impact”. RailTEC gave four oral presentations and three interactive presentations. The presentations were:

Benchmarking Safety of Connected Railway Systems: An International Case Study of the United States and Canada
Chen-Yu Lin¹, Theodore Gerstein¹, Christopher Barkan¹
(¹Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, The United States of America)

Comparing Different Train Following Control Algorithms for Platoons of Freight Trains Operating with Moving Blocks
Tyler Dick¹, Geordie Roscoe¹
(¹University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, The United States of America )

Engineered Interspersed Concrete Sleeper Track Modulus Assessment In Ballasted Track
Arthur de O. Lima¹, Marcus S. Dersch¹, Jaeik Lee¹, J. Riley Edwards¹
(¹RailTEC – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, The United States of America)

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Virtual and Moving Block Control Systems on a Long and Complex North American Freight Rail Corridor
Geordie Roscoe¹, Tyler Dick¹
(¹RailTEC – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, The United States of America)

Improving Understanding of Railroad Tank Wagon Performance in Accidents Through Simulation-Based Derailment Analyses
Steven Kirkpatrick¹, Todd Treichel², Christopher Barkan³, Chen-Yu Lin³, Leandro Iannacone³, Paul Gharzouzi³, Paolo Gardoni³
(¹Applied Research Associates, Inc., Mountain View, The United States of America, ²Association of American Railroads, Washington, D.C., The United States of America, ³University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, The United States of America)

Optimal Strategies for Dangerous-Goods Wagon Placement in Freight Trains: A Probabilistic Modeling Approach
Chen-Yu Lin¹, Xinhao Liu¹, Christopher Barkan¹
(¹Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, The United States of America)

Use of 3D Laser Scanning, Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs), & Change Detection Technology for Railway Track Safety Inspections
Riley Edwards¹, Richard Fox-Ivey², Arthur de O. Lima¹, John Laurent², Marcus S. Dersch¹, Thanh Nguyen², Ryan Harrington¹, Ian Germoglio Barbosa¹
(¹University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, The United States of America, ² Pavemetrics, Quebec City, Canada)



2022 International Crosstie and Fastening System Symposium

Both conference participants and sponsors were glad to return to meeting in person at the 2022 International Crosstie and Fastening System Symposium. This event was held on 24-25 May 2022 on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. The 2020 conference, which was postponed due to COVID, was held virtually in 2021.

One hundred and twenty attendees from four different countries and 29 states were able to hear the 33 presentations which focused on the state of the art in timber, concrete, steel, and composite crosstie and fastening system design, performance, research, modeling, and inspection. Participants were also pleased to hear two keynote speakers. The Class 1 Keynote speaker was John Cech, Vice President of Engineering, BNSF Railway. The title of his presentation was “Engineering a Resilient Supply Chain.” The Rail Transit Keynote was given by Robert Powers, General Manager, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), who discussed “BART: Keeping the Bay Area Moving.”

Five platinum sponsors (Loram Technologies Inc., Pandrol, Railmetrics, Vossloh North America, and voestalpine Railway Systems Nortrak) and five sponsors (BASF, Holland, Lewis Bolt & Nut Company, Progress Rail, and TieTek Global) rounded out the symposium. The objective of the symposium was to further international communication and collaboration on design and performance challenges and solutions for crossties and fastening systems.

Barkan Speaker for University of Delaware Kerr Series

Dr. Christopher Barkan on 25 April 2022, giving the Arnold Kerr Lecture in Engineering Mechanics and Design

Chris Barkan, Professor and George Krambles Director of RailTEC, was the guest speaker for the University of Delaware’s Kerr Lecture Series on Monday, 25 April 2022. This lecture series brings distinguished scientists and engineers to the University of Delaware each year to speak on topics in engineering mechanics and design.  The title of his presentation was “Improving Railroad Train and Hazardous Materials Tank Car Safety”. While railroads have invested in infrastructure, rolling stock, and technology leading to substantial improvements in train safety and efficiency, the damage resistance of tank cars involved in derailments has also improved due to design changes.  It is thus paradoxical that some of the most serious, high-profile hazardous materials release accidents have occurred in the past decade or so. This presentation discussed statistical and analytical modeling research conducted by RailTEC’s Safety and Risk Research Group on identifying the most important safety improvements in the past and maximizing their efficacy.

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.