News Archive

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:

Barkan Discusses Illinois HSR on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight

Chris Barkan, Professor and George Krambles Director of RailTEC, appeared on Chicago Tonight on Wednesday, September 1, 2021 to discuss the economic impacts of establishing high-speed rail connecting Chicago and St. Louis. Chicago Tonight is a television news program broadcast weeknights on WTTW in Chicago. He was interviewed by Nick Blumburg, a reporter and producer of WTTW News. Click here to see the video clip or here to read the story.

Come See What Rail Engineering Is All About

The most highly respected rail engineering program in North America is right here at the University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign. An incredible five rail transportation and engineering courses will be offered in the Fall 2021 semester. These courses are approved options for advanced technical electives for a Primary or Secondary in Transportation Engineering. Did you know our graduates have excellent employment opportunities? Additional information on the 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.

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.

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

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.

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

CEE 498 RVT – Rail Vehicle Technology (Course Catalog Link)

This course gives an extensive overview to rail vehicles and their technical basis, while you as a student design a commuter-type train in a course-long project task. The lectures and the project task advance in parallel throughout the course, in a weekly basis, so that technical aspects used in the design of the vehicle are available to the students throughout the lectures and online recordings. The material in this course has been developed by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden and is a joint course with them.

Instructor: Lecturer & Principal Railway Research Engineer – Tyler Dick

CEE 595 HAL – High-Efficiency Freight Rail (Course Catalog Link)

This graduate seminar will feature 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 will emphasize the critical role of engineers as creative problem solvers.

Instructor: Professor – Christopher Barkan


2021 RailTEC Virtual Short Course a Success

Attendees for RailTEC’s virtual Railroad Engineering Short Course this summer exceeded the numbers from previous years. Week one, which focused on Track Engineering Fundamentals, had 66 registrants while week two, Railroad Project Design, had 53. Students were from 41 companies and participated from seven different countries (US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, Australia, India). Participants earned 14 professional development hours and included employees throughout the rail industry from railroads, government agencies, transit authorities, consultants and suppliers. Both courses were held in July and each course ran virtually on Monday – Thursday for four hours each day. Attendees engaged in interactive lectures, relevant case studies and small group discussions to learn about the practical aspects and science behind railway engineering and transportation concepts.

If you missed the course this year, check back soon for next year’s schedule.

Presentations Still Available For Viewing

Did you miss a presentation from the virtual 2021 International Crosstie and Fastening System Symposium earlier this summer? Thanks to sponsors that made the Symposium possible you can still access all of this year’s content and watch the presentations with the following links.

Track Inspection Advancements and Applications | 19 May 2021

Sponsored by Evertrak

Concrete Crosstie Design and Performance | 26 May 2021

Sponsored by Progress Rail

Resilient Materials and Crosstie Support | 2 June 2021

Sponsored by Union Pacific Railroad

Composite and Interspersed Crossties | 9 June 2021

Sponsored by Pandrol

Fastening System Design and Performance | 16 June 2021

Sponsored by Vossloh



23rd RREC Registration Opens


Advance registration is open until Friday, 13 August for the 23rd annual Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC). This year the conference will be presented in a hybrid format, meaning that participants can chose between in-person or online attendance. This will provide attendees the best of both worlds – being able to see each other in-person, while also providing quality presentations online to those who are unable to join us in Champaign, IL.

In other exciting news, RREC will be held at a new venue this year. The iHotel and Conference Center, located on the south side of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, has more capacity than the Illini Union and free parking.  The iHotel has also successfully hosted conferences under Illinois COVID-19 restrictions over the past year.  While the state of Illinois moved to Phase 5: Illinois Restored (no restrictions) on Friday, 11 June, this greater capacity and experience will reduce the potential impact on the in-person aspect of RREC if certain restrictions have been reinstated by October.

Come listen to over 60 presentations at this annual conference that enables you to meet with your 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 website.

Barkan Discusses HSR Commission on Good Day Chicago

Chris Barkan, Professor and George Krambles Director of RailTEC, was a guest speaker on Good Day Chicago on Wednesday morning, 09 June discussing the establishment of the Illinois High-Speed Rail Commission. The Illinois Legislature recently passed bill HB 0399 that created the Commission to develop a statewide plan for a very high speed rail (HSR) line connecting St. Louis and Chicago. The HSR line would also link with Amtrak and Metra services connecting the cities of Rockford, Moline, Peoria, and Decatur, and integrate inter-city bus services as well. The Commission will conduct a ridership study and make findings and recommendations concerning a governance structure, the frequency of service, and implementation of the plan.

The High Speed Rail Alliance, which has been promoting HB 0399 for several years, prepared a media release that included a quote from Professor Barkan. “This legislation is an essential step toward development of a safe, efficient, and environmentally sustainable 21st-century transportation system for Illinois. Such a system will fundamentally transform Illinois citizens’ mobility and bolster the state’s economy. It will also transform our higher education system by enabling fast, convenient travel between the three University of Illinois campuses. Beyond the educational benefits, this will also support the objectives of the University’s Design Partners Institute I hope the Commission will soon get underway and quickly complete their efforts so the real work of planning, design and construction can begin.”

Click here to read the entire Midwest HSR Alliance media release.

Click here to see bill HB0399.


Virtual Railway Engineering Short Course Registration Still Open

Hurry now before registration closes to sign up for one or both of our virtual one-week railway engineering short courses. Registration closes on Friday, 02 July 2021. Click here to enroll. Week One focuses on Track Engineering Fundamentals while Week Two focuses on Railroad Project Design. Both courses will be held in July 2021 and each course will run virtually on Monday – Thursday for four hours each day. Participants earn 14 professional development hours. 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.

Track Engineering Fundamentals
12-15 July 2021 | Noon-4pm CDT
Lead Instructor: Conrad Ruppert

    • Monday: Introduction; Rail; Crossties & Fasteners
    • Tuesday: Ballast & Subgrade; Drainage; Slab Track; Turnouts & Special Trackwork
    • Wednesday: Track Structural Analysis; Track Structural Design
    • Thursday: Track Standards & Inspections; Track Maintenance Technologies; Asset Management & Life Cycle Costs

Railroad Project Design
19-22 July 2021 | Noon-4pm CDT
Lead Instructor: Tyler Dick

    • Monday: Introduction; Horizontal Track Geometry
    • Tuesday: Vertical Track Geometry; Cross Sections & Earthwork
    • Wednesday: Railroad Location; Location Referencing & Track Charts
    • Thursday: Project Phasing; Project Cost Estimation

The course focuses on three general topic areas (track structure design, track geometry/project design and train resistance/motive power/rolling stock).  Attendees with a stronger background in one area can still learn about other aspects of railway engineering and the interrelationships between them. In gaining a greater appreciation for the holistic view of rail transport as a system, attendees can make better engineering decisions in the future. The short course is an excellent networking opportunity to meet others engaged in various facets of the rail industry.