News Archive

RailTEC Presentations at 2020 INFORMS Annual Meeting

Three members from the RailTEC Systems Group participated in the 2020 Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) annual meeting, which was held on Saturday, 07 November – Friday, 13 November.  RailTEC Lecturer and Principal Railway Research Engineer, C. Tyler Dick was a session chair for the Yards and Terminals session on Monday and also presented his research on “Influence of Mainline Schedule Flexibility and Volume Variability on Railway Classification Yard Performance”.

In the same Yards and Terminals session, Jiaxi Zhao, RailTEC Ph.D. student, presented her work on “Hump Yard Performance Simulation with Anylogic”.

On Tuesday attendees listened as Geordie Roscoe, RailTEC M.S. student, spoke on the subject of “Deadlock Avoidance Dispatching Algorithm for Generalized Track and Train Configurations” in the Railway Resource and Management and Optimization session.

This was the first entirely virtual annual meeting and was a combination of live and on-demand sessions with live Q&A.  Each year the INFORMS Annual Meeting draws thousands of operations research and analytics professionals, students, industry leaders and more from across the globe for unique opportunities for face-to-face learning, networking, and collaboration.

Virtual Railroad Environmental Seminar Wrap-up

The Virtual Railroad Environmental Seminar (vRRES) on 27 – 28 October 2020 was a resounding success with over 450 registrants from 14 countries and five continents. In addition to the outstanding technical presentations, it was noted that the seminar showcased the growing number of women in the field and provided them with an outreach and networking opportunity. This year women made a significant impact by being over half of the presenters (including the keynote speaker), the chair of the Environmental Affairs Committee and half of the nominees (and the winner) for the AAR Environmental Excellence Award.

Robert Fronczak (L) with the winner of the 2020 AAR Environmental Excellence Award, Meaghan Atkinson (R) of CSX.

The AAR Environmental Excellence Award is the industry’s highest honor for environmental professionals and was awarded by Robert Fronczak, AAR, to Meaghan Atkinson of CSX. She is a manager of environmental programs at CSX and leads the railroad’s effort to implement some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas targets in the transportation sector. In addition to Atkinson, seven other railroad environmental professionals were nominated for the award. They were Laura Fotiou of Amtrak, Karla Graf of CN, Tara Hill of Kansas City Southern, Josh Raglin of Norfolk Southern Railway, Joel Strafelda of Union Pacific Railroad, Sean Strong of Watco Cos. LLC, and Nic Winslow of BNSF Railway Co.

Recordings of the seminar presentations will be made available to registered attendees on Thursday, 5 November 2020 for one month. After a one-month viewing period, recordings of authorized presentations will be posted to the RailTEC YouTube Channel and will be available to the public. See the full seminar program here.

Mark your calendars now for next year’s Railroad Environment Conference (RREC) on 2-3 November 2021.

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:

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.