News Archive

RailTEC Faculty Rated Excellent

Congratulations to RailTEC faculty Chris Barkan and Riley Edwards for making the Fall 2021 “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students”. These lists are compiled by the University on a semester basis and reflect student ratings of instruction. Click here to see a complete listing of Illinois faculty who earned this distinction.

During the Fall Chris taught CEE 595 HAL – High-Efficiency Freight Rail and Riley taught CEE 409 – Railroad Track Engineering. More information on these classes can be found below.

CEE 409 – Railroad Track Engineering

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 were to provide the student with a fundamental understanding of basic railroad track engineering principles, concepts, practices and technologies. The course also included the development of a comprehensive track design project in a team setting.  Finally, a field trip was planned to observe railroad track and engage in “hands-on” track construction and maintenance activities. This class is typically offered in the fall semester.

CEE 595 HAL – High-Efficiency Freight Rail

This graduate seminar featured a series of visiting speakers with expertise and direct experience with properly managing the changes the railroads face as they continuously evolve to take advantage of the economies of scale made by possible by their inherent capacity to move larger, heavier materials in greater quantities through use of larger, higher capacity freight cars, and longer trains.  Beyond the technical content, this graduate seminar emphasized the critical role of engineers as creative problem solvers.

Apply Now for High School Summer Program in Rail

With funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Michigan Tech and Penn State Altoona have teamed up to offer 60 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”. Learn what forms modern railroad track, explore railway equipment from around the globe, and analyze the latest operations, communication and control systems. Find out how it all works through virtual sessions, hands-on activities, and field visits to railroad facilities.

All applicants who are accepted for the program will receive scholarships that cover the program fees. This includes all materials plus camp staffing, overnight accommodations in a campus residence hall, meals and insurance for the on-campus portion of the program. Campers are responsible for their own travel expenses to and from their assigned campus host. This hybrid program will feature a virtual portion (at home) that runs July 11-12 with a two-day visit at one of the three partnering campuses (max. 20 on each campus) on July 14-15. Wednesday, July 13 is a travel day.

Applications are due by April 10th.  Don’t wait – encourage your favorite student to get an application in today!

More information on the program and how to apply can be found at our Tracks to the Future web site.


Tracks to the Future Program Sponsored by:


Hybrid Program Host Universities:

RailTEC at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


Rail Transportation & Engineering  (RTE) Program at Penn State Altoona


Rail Transportation Program (RTP) at Michigan Tech


RailTEC PhD Students Award Winners

Congratulations to RailTEC PhD students Jiaxi Zhao and Geordie Roscoe who won the 2021 INFORMS Railway Applications Section Problem Solving Competition with their solution “Arrival Time Estimation for Unit Trains Utilizing Train Matching Techniques”. This competition was during the 2021 INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) annual meeting held on Sunday, October 24, 2021 – Wednesday, October 27, 2021 in Anaheim, CA. It had over 6,500 attendees in a hybrid format.

  Jiaxi Zhao (L) and Geordie Roscoe (R)

CEE Magazine Fall 2021

The Fall 2021 issue of the CEE Magazine features three items pertinent to RailTEC. First, Paula Pienton (BS 85), Chief Engineer, Bridges & Structures at CN and President of the CEE Alumni Board of Directors, has a full page dedicated to her campus visit, including CN’s receipt of the AREMA W.W. Hay Award for their replacement of the longest timber trestle in North America, the McComb Spillway in Louisiana. There is also an item about current Ph.D. student Geordie Roscoe (MS 21) receiving the CN Fellowship in Railroad Engineering and a piece about Xiang Liu (MS 11, PhD 13), Assistant Professor at Rutgers University. Xiang was recognized for his professional accomplishments and received the Young Alumni Achievement Award.

Click here to read the full issue of the magazine.

RailTEC Contributions at 101st TRB

RailTEC faculty, staff, students, and alumni will have a strong showing next week at the 101st Annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) meeting in Washington, D.C. on January 9 – 13, 2022. In total there are over 50 separate references, including 31 authors, 2 session chairs, and 4 committee meeting chairs. Click here for a guide to 2022 RailTEC contributions at TRB.

This in-person event will focus on the spotlight theme for the 2022 meeting: Innovating an Equitable, Resilient, Sustainable, and Safe Transportation System.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will be the keynote speaker. This conference typically attracts thousands of transportation professionals from around the world and the meeting program covers all transportation modes, with more than 400 sessions and workshops addressing topics of interest to policy makers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, and representatives of government, industry, and academic institutions.

4-hours for 4-days: Register Now for Virtual Short Course

RailTEC invites you to attend one or both of our four-day railway engineering short courses. Both courses will run virtually on Monday – Thursday from noon – 4:00 pm (Central) each day. Week One will be held 18-21 July and focuses on Track Engineering Fundamentals. The lead instructor is Conrad Ruppert, Jr.  Week Two, focusing on Railroad Project Design, will be 25-28 July and led by C. Tyler Dick, Ph.D., P.E. Participants earn 14 PDH’s per course. Past attendees include rail professionals, engineers, planners, consultants and more from employees throughout the rail industry.  For more information, click here to go to the Railway Engineering Short Course website or click here to register.

CEE 595HAL Course Thanks

RailTEC was privileged this Fall to have a series of visiting speakers willing to share their in-depth knowledge and expertise in the rail industry with Illinois students enrolled in CEE 595HAL (High-Efficiency Freight Rail Transportation). Five of these presenters also gave William W. Hay Seminars and spoke to hundreds of participants both virtually and in-person. CEE 595HAL focused on properly managing the changes that railroads face as they continuously evolve to take advantage of the economies of scale made by possible by their inherent capacity to move larger, heavier materials in greater quantities through use of larger, higher capacity freight cars, and longer trains.

Thank you to the following classroom speakers:

September 10 – Mike Roney (Canadian Pacific Railway, retired) – Topic: Benchmarking Heavy Haul Evolution

September 17 – Ted Sussmann (US DOT Volpe Center and University of Hartford) – Topic: Track Substructure

September 24 – Duane Otter (TTCI) – Topic: Railway Bridges

October 8 – Dave Davis (TTCI, AAR, retired) / Steve Wilk (TTCI) – Topic: Track Superstructure

October 22 – Jon Jeambey (TTX, retired) – Topic: Rolling Stock Innovations: Success and Failures

October 29 – Dick Dawson (TTX, retired) – Topic: Empirical vs Analytic Approaches to Solving Railcar Design Problems

November 12 – Mike Iden (Union Pacific Railroad, retired) – Topic: Motive Power

November 19 – Tom Haley (Union Pacific Railroad, retired) – Topic: Railroad Operations

December 3 – Carl Martland (MIT, retired) – Topic: HAL Economics


2021 Railroad Environmental Conference Wrap-up

The 23rd annual Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC), held virtually on 26-27 October 2021, was a huge success. This two-day event hosted over 330 registrants, delivered 55 sessions, included over 80 speakers, and highlighted keynote speaker Karl Simon, Director, Transportation and Climate Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Recordings of approved conference presentations will be made available to registered attendees during the first week of November for three months on the conference app, Whova.

Six railroad industry professionals were nominated for the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Professional Environmental Excellence Award. This is the highest honor for environmental professionals in the railroad industry and is presented annually at RREC. The winner was Robert Schoble of Norfolk Southern Railway. The other nominees were: Michael Clift (BNSF Railway), Michael Panhuise (Amtrak), Hillary Parker (Union Pacific Railroad), James Roberts (CSX) and Jennifer Welch (Watco Companies).

In addition, three Railroad Environmental Achievement Award winners were announced at the conference. The winners are: Robert Fronczak (AAR), Christi Hornick (Union Pacific Railroad), and Josh Raglin (Norfolk Southern Railway). This award recognizes significant career accomplishments in advancing railroad industry environmental practice and policy.

Detailed information on these awards and their winners were featured in Railway Age, Progressive Railroading, American Journal of Transportation and on the AAR website.

Planning begins immediately for next year’s conference.  Look for 2022 RREC dates to be announced soon.



Don’t Forget to Register!

Register now for the 23rd annual Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC) which will be hosted virtually on 26-27 October utilizing Whova and Zoom Webinar. This two day event features keynote speaker Karl Simon, Director, Transportation and Climate Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as over 50 other speakers. PDH’s are available. This annual conference enables rail industry employees to meet with peers throughout the railroad environmental community to exchange views, learn about new techniques and technologies, and generally stay in touch with the direction of the railroad industry’s environmental programs.

Click here for the conference program and website.

RailTEC Instructors Ranked Excellent

Despite the challenges of teaching online during the pandemic, RailTEC instructors Chen-Yu Lin and Tyler Dick were ranked as excellent by their students in Spring 2021. Tyler taught CEE 411 ‐ Railroad Project Design & Construction and Chen-Yu taught CEE 498TSR – Transportation Safety and Risk.

CEE 411 | Railroad Project Design and Construction

This course provides a comprehensive, integrated understanding of the process of planning and designing a railroad-engineering project from concept through to operation. The class will focus on five elements of a railroad project: Economic analysis, Planning, Design, Construction, and Operation. Students will work in teams to identify, gather and analyze the necessary information, to plan and manage a new railroad construction project.

CEE 498TSR | Transportation Safety and Risk

This course provides an introduction to transportation risk concepts, risk management framework and risk assessment methodologies to address safety and security of freight and hazardous materials transport by railways, roads, waterways and pipelines. Students learn about the tools needed to perform comprehensive mode-specific and multimodal transportation risk analyses. Each student is expected to work on a specific transportation safety problem of his/her interest, and identify, assess and mitigate the risk.

These lists are compiled by the University on a semester basis and reflect student ratings of instruction.  The ratings are based on Instructor and Course Evaluation (ICES) questionnaire forms maintained by Measurement and Evaluation, Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning. A full list of Illinois teachers ranked excellent can be found here: