News Archive

5th Railway Engineering Short Course

The largest class ever just completed the 5th RailTEC Railway Engineering Short Course on Friday, August 9. This week-long course, held on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, graduated 21 students. They engaged in interactive lectures, relevant case studies, small group discussions and a site visit and lab tour to learn about the practical aspects and science behind railway engineering and transportation concepts. The course focuses on three general topic areas (track structure design, track geometry/project design and train resistance/motive power/rolling stock) and all participants receive Professional Development Hours (PDH) and a Certificate of Completion. Please mark your calendars now for next year’s course on July 27-31, 2020.

Conrad Ruppert, right, interacting with a RailTEC Short Course participant.
Tyler Dick, left, explains one of the problems to the Short Course attendees.
A Short Course student intently studying research equipment on the RAIL tour.
Riley Edwards, left, discussing how the research equipment works with a class attendee.

Barkan Receives Silver Tank Car Award

Chris Barkan, Professor and George Krambles Director – RailTEC, received the Silver Tank Car Award from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Freight Rail Committee AR-040 for his many years of dedicated service to TRB and his ongoing research on rail tank car design and safety benefiting all railroads and shippers worldwide. The award was presented at the combined NURail Annual Meeting/TRB Summerail ’19 which was held July 24 – 26, 2019 in St. Louis, MO. This three day event featured two days of presentations and one day of technical tours. Four NURail partners gave technical presentations on their research during the meeting, including RailTEC Senior Research Engineer and Director of Education, Tyler Dick. Tyler discussed his research on “Influence of Mainline Schedule Flexibility and Volume Variability on Railway Classification Yard Performance”.

Tyler Dick giving his research on “Influence of Mainline Schedule Flexibility and Volume Variability on Railway Classificaiton Yard Performance”.
Dave Clarke, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, (left) and Forrest Van Schwartz, Managing Director Global Transportation Consultancy, (right), flank Chris Barkan who holds his Silver Tank Car Award.

Illinois Participation at p-REES

The third biennial Passenger Railway Engineering Education Symposium (p-REES) was held July 22-24, 2019 at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Headquarters in downtown Chicago, IL.  Attendees at this three day event learned about current research and development in railroad engineering education programs and this year seven instructors, students and alumni from the University of Illinois system participated. Students were provided practical, hands-on engineering information and materials, with the goal of encouraging engineering faculty interest in adding rail and transit engineering content to their current courses and curricula. The symposium also included a field visit to CTA’s Control Center and an introduction to CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization Program. p-REES is sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) in cooperation with the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA).

Riley Edwards giving his portion of the Vehicles Track unit.
Chris Barkan (left) and Mark Walbrun (U of I alumnus) taught the Railroad Operations / Modal Characteristics module.
Jon Roma teaching a section on Basic Signals.

RailTEC & NS Field Test at Horseshoe Curve

On July 15-16, 2019, the RailTEC Infrastructure Group and Norfolk Southern (NS) Research & Tests worked together at Horseshoe Curve in Blair County, Pennsylvania to install track measurement sites. Horseshoe Curve is a three-track railroad curve on NS’s Pittsburgh Line and was selected because of sharp curvature (9°), steep grade (1.8%) and a history of broken spikes.  The sites will provide rail force and tie plate displacement data for RailTEC’s FRA funded broken spike research project. Instrumentation was installed on track 1, to capture trains descending the grade with air brakes applied, and on track 3, to capture trains ascending with locomotives at maximum tractive effort. Data will be collected on track 3 until August 5th, when the instrumentation will be removed in advance of a programmed gaging job. Data will be collected on track 1 through the Fall of 2019.

RailTEC & NS Instrumentation Team
Installing the equipment
Buried conduit from the track 3 site
Displacement Transducers

RailTEC Research Featured in RT&S

Railway Track and Structures (RT&S) magazine published an article in its July 2019 issue detailing research done by RailTEC researchers Marcus Dersch, Tom Roadcap and Riley Edwards. This article discusses the completed first phase of an investigation into timber crosstie spike fastener failures on North American railroads. The research included a review of derailment reports and literature, an industry survey and an extensive program of field visits. A validated finite element model was developed to better understand the spike failure modes and underlying causes. This research was sponsored funded by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and supported by multiple Class 1 railroads and several industry partners. To read the article click here.

Summer Conferences

June was a busy month for conferences and meetings for RailTEC faculty, staff and students. Representatives attended the International Heavy Haul Association (IHHA) meeting in Narvik, Norway from 10-14 June and the International Association of Railway Operations Research (IAROR) conference in Norrkoping, Sweden from 17-20 June. RailTEC faculty also took advantage of the opportunity to meet with previous and potential industry partners and sponsors as well as discuss educational collaborations with representatives from Tampere University in Finland, KTH University in Stockholm, and University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

While at IHHA RailTEC representatives presented their research to the international freight railway community in the Modeling & Simulation, Sleeper & Fastener, Safety & Monitoring, and poster sessions. IHHA is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in heavy haul railway operations, engineering, maintenance, and technology. Over 430 delegates from 30 different countries attended the conference which offered over 150 presentations and papers.

At IAROR, the 8th International Conference on Railway Operations Modelling and Analysis, RailTEC faculty, students and alumni gave nine presentations and chaired two sessions in the Freight Traffic Planning, Traffic Management, Moving Block, Delay Analysis & Prediction, Capacity Analysis, and Rolling Stock Scheduling & Maintenance sessions. This conference was designed to promote interdisciplinary discussions in the railway planning and operations research area by combining the expertise of academics and professionals. The conference had more than 250 participants from 20 countries.

See below for a few photos from each conference.

RailTEC Group at 2019 IHHA


Tom Roadcap talking to a 2019 IHHA attendee about his poster presentation.


Josue Bastos giving his presentation at the 2019 IHHA conference.


Chen-Yu Lin presenting his paper at IHHA 2019 in Narvik.


RailTEC faculty, students and alumni at IAROR 2019.


Stan Chang giving his presentation.


Adrian Diaz de Rivera presenting at the 2019 IAROR conference.


Tyler Dick presenting his paper in at the 2019 IAROR conference in Sweden.

RailTEC Postdoc Featured in Local Magazine

RailTEC postdoctoral research associate, Chen-Yu Lin, was recently featured in Champaign-Urbana’s online culture magazine, Smile Politely. Entering its 12th year of publishing, Smile Politely provides the community with informed points of view on a variety of topics that are locally-focused: arts, culture, food and drink, music, politics, and more. In this article Chen-Yu talks about both current and historical rail education at Illinois, his favorite train rides, and tips for getting through grad school. Click here to read the article.

Alliance of Universities for High Speed Rail

Chris Barkan, Professor and Executive Director of RailTEC, and T.C. Kao, Research Professor in RailTEC, are inaugural members of the International Union of Railway’s (UIC) Alliance of Universities for High Speed Rail, which held its first official meeting in Hangzhou, China last November.  The Alliance has attracted 26 higher education institutions from 11 countries, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Among the objectives of this alliance are to promote railway education and the attractiveness of careers in rail, recruiting outstanding talent to the high speed rail sector, while also helping academic institutions improve the quality of their teaching in specialist disciplines. The alliance intends to address a number of research fields, including assessing the economics of high speed rail compared to other modes; studying marginal costs and the value of time; and examining possible future innovations including automation and alternative traction options. Click here to read a recently published article in the May 2019 issue of Railway Gazette International discussing this new group.

RailTEC Grad Student Named Mavis Future Faculty Fellow

Congratulations to RailTEC graduate student, Josue Cesar Bastos, who was selected as a Mavis Future Faculty Fellow (MF3) for the 2019-2020 academic year. The MF3 Academy in the Grainger College of Engineering is a one-year program for full-time senior PhD students to facilitate the training of the next generation of engineering faculty. The three main components to the MF3 Academy are research, teaching and mentoring. Fellows participate in a series of workshops, seminars, and activities that cover various aspects of an academic career. In addition, participants will complete a capstone experience that will enhance their professional development in a self-directed area.

Josue Cesar Bastos, center, works with Yubing (Coco) Liang, background, and Jake Branson, foreground right, on simulation and modeling software in their office at Newmark Lab in Urbana on July 24, 2018.

RT&S Article Features Illinois AREMA Student Chapter

Adrian Diaz de Rivera, University of Illinois RailTEC graduate student and AREMA Student Chapter president, wrote an article that was chosen as one of two winners of this year’s AREMA Student Chapter Article Competition for Railway Track & Structures (RT&S). This was the third year that AREMA student chapters have been given the opportunity to showcase their activities and research to the greater AREMA membership through writing for RT&S.

Adrian Diaz de Rivera, right, talking to a student at the 2019 Engineering Open House

Adrian wrote about the Illinois chapter’s participation in the 99th University of Illinois Engineering Open House (EOH). This event, typically held in March, is a massive two day STEM outreach event featuring hundreds of student-run exhibits and demonstrations with estimated crowds exceeding 26,000. The title of the article is “Rail engineering outreach for all ages” and is in the May 2019 issue of RT&S. Click here to read the article.