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Designing RR Bridges using 3D Printings
December 7, 2016

A new structural engineering class culminated the semester by designing a railroad bridge and then building a model using 3D printing. University of New Mexico (UNM) civil engineering students, who earlier this semester visited the Rail Runner train station and its railroad bridge to learn more about railroad engineering design requirements, are being taught by Dr. Fernando Moreu, a UNM Assistant Professor. UNM is one of 16 members in the NURail University Affiliate Program. This program is a consortium of universities offering a combination of strengths in railway transportation engineering research and education in North America. The benefits of being an affiliate include participation in NURail’s annual meeting, recognition as a university with railway related activities and research and education resource sharing and collaborative opportunities. For more information about this program, contact Dr. Pasi Lautala (ptlautal@mtu.edu), Associate Director of Education for NURail, or Dr. Leslie McCarthy (leslie.mccarthy@villanova.edu), Chair of the Affiliate University Program. Click here to read the article.

2016 NURail Student of the Year Winners Announced
December 5, 2016

Two students were selected as the 2016 NURail Student of the Year. Samantha Chadwick, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) PhD student, received this award for Grant DTRT12-G-UTC18, and Steven Landry, a Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) PhD student, was the winner under Grant DTRT13-G-UTC52. As recipients of this award, Sam and Steve received an honorarium from NURail in recognition of their outstanding technical research, record of publications and presentation, academic performance, and professional leadership plus the cost of attendance to the 96th TRB Annual Meeting, two free registrations to the CUTC Banquet, and a certificate from US DOT. To read more about the award winners, please click here.

Legal Landscape Impacts the Rail Industry
November 10, 2016

In November’s video listen to Dr. David B. Clarke, Executive Director of the University of Tennessee Knoxville Center for Transportation Research and Research Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, discuss three basic topics on how the changing legal landscape impacts the rail industry. Dr. Clarke’s transportation experience includes a variety of projects in the areas of planning, design, system operations, and research. He has served as a university faculty member, consulting engineer, research manager, and researcher, and is active in national efforts to promote railway research and education, and teaches classes and short courses on rail subjects.

Spotlight: Aaron Dean from Michigan Tech
October 31, 2016

Aaron Dean, third year Mechanical Engineering major at Michigan Technological University, was recently selected as a DeVlieg Foundation Fellow for the Undergraduate Research Internship Program through the Pavlis Honors College. Aaron is an undergraduate research and administrative assistant for the Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program (RTP). His interest in research allowed him to shift from administrative tasks to research activities in a new area related to driver behavior at highway-rail grade crossings. In August, Aaron attended the AREMA conference in Orlando, FL where he won best undergraduate student poster. Following this success and the growing interest in his work, Aaron was invited to present at the 2017 Joint Rail Conference in Philadelphia this coming April. Aaron is very active in the Railroad Engineering & Activities Club (REAC), the Michigan Tech Student Chapter of AREMA, and was recently elected the 2016-2017 president. To read the complete article on Aaron, click here.

NURail’s October Video
October 7, 2016

NURail’s video of the month is Dr. Ahmed A. Shabana, University Distinguished Professor and the Richard and Loan Hill Professor of Engineering at UIC, discussing how he became involved with rail research. Dr. Shabana’s railroad research developing algorithms for railroad vehicle and track dynamics has been funded by the FRA since 1999 and he has developed computer programs that are licensed to industry and federal agencies. He is the author of Railroad Vehicle Dynamics: A Computational Approach and four other books.

Click HERE for more news.

Featured Project


Rural Freight Rail and Multimodal Transportation Improvements- The Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This study investigated the transportation system in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (UP), concentrating on identifying challenges faced by rural freight rail service providers and shippers along light-density lines and on developing tools and methods that facilitate the current and future rail and multimodal transportation alternatives in the study area. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Railway Operations Class

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Increasing the number and diversity of rail focused courses is an important step in rebuilding America’s railway education infrastructure. This new course jointly developed by the Universities of Tennessee and South Carolina addresses railway operations. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Continuing Education for the Railway Industry

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Workforce development is a critical issue in the railway industry, particularly for small railroad companies and industrial (plant) railroads. The University of Tennessee Center for Transportation Research offers a series of instructor lead continuing education courses on railway topics. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Performance Monitoring of Bridge-Track Transition Zones

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This report provides a description of the research performed by the University of Kentucky in conjunction with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that focuses on the behavior of the transition zone surrounding the bridge and track interface. Research has been conducted with attention to several concepts. First, attention has been given to the design of the track transition, and the material components that are used in the track construction. Second, consideration has been given to the design of the bridge abutments and any retaining wall(s). Third, the performance and response to train traffic of each transition has been monitored though the use of accelerometers strategically placed on the ends of ties. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Effect of Enhanced Trackbed Support on Railway/Highway At-Grade Crossing Performance

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

A growing number of public agencies and railroad companies have mandated the use of asphalt underlayments on select crossings, normally on heavy traffic/tonnage crossings that have weak support, as evidenced by track pumping, ballast fouling, and track settlement. The report concludes by summarizing how eleven public agencies and railroad companies, spread across the United States, currently implement asphalt underlayment. Click here to read the detailed brief.

KENTRACK 4.0: A RAILWAY TRACKBED STRUCTURAL DESIGN PROGRAM

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The KENTRACK program is a finite element based railway trackbed structural design program that can analyze trackbeds having various combinations of all-granular and asphalt-bound layered support. It is applicable for calculating compressive stresses at the top of subgrade and tensile strains at the bottom of the asphalt layer for trackbeds containing an asphalt layer. The properties of performance graded (PG) asphalt binders and the Witczak E* predictive model were incorporated in the 4.0 Version of the program. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Railway/Highway At-Grade Crossing Surface Rehabilitation Manual: Recommendations and Guides

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Railway/Highway At-Grade Crossing Surface Management involves selecting the most cost-effective rehabilitation technique that will provide safe, smooth, high performance, long-life, serviceable crossings for the motoring public. This report functions as a manual that offers step-by-step guidance to see a project from its planning stages through to its implementation and post-construction management. Click here to read the detailed brief.

In-track Pressure Testing at Tie-Ballast Interface using Pressure Cells

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The purpose of this research project is to determine in-track pressure magnitudes at the tie-ballast interface using a locomotive and earth pressure cells. A method was developed for measuring distributions of railway trackbed pressure magnitudes at the tie-ballast interface using earth pressure cells placed directly under the tie along its length. A locomotive was used to provide typical pressures at the wheel/rail interface. The method was determined to provide consistent and repeatable results. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Fine Scale Measurement of Ballast-Tie Pressure Distribution

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This investigation involves the measurement of fine-scale pressures at the ballast-tie interface of conventional ballasted track. To further understand the forces that act at this interface, the use of Matrix Based Tactile Surface Sensors is employed to measure a more fine-scale pressure distribution at the ballast-tie interface, characterized by individual ballast particle contact points and non-uniform pressure distributions. In partnership with Transportation Technology Center, Inc., laboratory ballast box testing and in-track testing at the Facility for Accelerated Service Testing were conducted. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Intermodal and Multi-Modal Education at the University of Kentucky

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

In addition to the Railway Facilities Design and Analysis course (CE 533), the University of Kentucky Civil Engineering Department currently offers a course in Railway Operations and Multi-Modal Transportation (CE 433). The operational aspects necessary for the efficient transportation of freight and passengers by rail have always been a primary focus of the course. Over the past several years, however, the course has incorporated material related to intermodal transportation to reflect the growing importance of intermodal shipping in the United States and internationally. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Railway/Highway At-Grade Crossing Surface Management: An Overview

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This review focuses on administrative regulations and state statutes that inform the renewal of railway/highway at-grade crossings. A number of states have successfully developed standard at-grade crossing management practices. Comprehensive information on crossing renewal was obtained from several states, and detailed descriptions are included of the six effective state-level programs, specifically those in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, and West Virginia. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Railway Operations Class

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Increasing the number and diversity of rail focused courses is an important step in rebuilding America’s railway education infrastructure. Currently, most college level rail courses are on railway civil engineering topics. A new course jointly developed by the Universities of Tennessee and South Carolina addresses railway operations. Providing engineering students with a better understanding of operations can improve infrastructure design and maintenance practices. The course also attracts business students interested in a career in railway management. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Amtrak’s Productivity in the Northeast Corridor: Past and Future

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Productivity analysis, the relationship between outputs and inputs in any given process, is used to evaluate the performance of the main passenger rail services in the Northeast Corridor during FY 2002--‐2012 and to make inferences about high--‐speed rail for the next 30 years. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Capacity Challenges on the California High-Speed Rail Shared Corridors: How Local Decisions Have Statewide Impacts

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

In 2012, as a cost-control measure and in response to local opposition in the San Francisco Bay Area, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) adopted a "blended system" at the north and south bookends of the planned first phase of its high-speed rail line. The decisions made on the local blended corridor level will affect both the financial viability of the overall project and the quality of service experienced by customers across the entire California rail system. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Consequence Evaluation of Liquid Hazardous Material Release Using GIS Flow Modeling

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Increasing petroleum crude oil traffic by rail in North America and several recent severe release incidents highlight the need to further improve railroad transportation safety. Accurate estimation of the consequence of a release incident is key element in risk assessment. Previous methodologies may be overly simplistic or not appropriate to model liquid hazardous material releases. This research aims to address this gap and provide a specific methodology for evaluating the consequence of liquid hazardous material releases. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Shared Rail Corridor Adjacent Track Accident Risk Analysis

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

There are several safety concerns associated with operating passenger and freight trains on shared-use rail corridors (SRC). Adjacent track accident (ATA) mainly refers to a train accident scenario where a derailed equipment intrudes adjacent tracks, causing operation disturbance and potential subsequent train collisions on the adjacent tracks. This study presents a semi-quantitative risk analysis model to evaluate the ATA risk incorporating various factors affecting train accident rate, intrusion rate, train presence rate, and accident consequences. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Causal Analysis of Passenger Train Accidents on Freight Rail Corridors

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

A number of economic, technical and political factors have limited the development of new, dedicated, very-high-speed rail systems in North America. Consequently, most, near-term development of improved or expanded passenger rail service in the U.S. involve use of existing railroad infrastructure or rights of way. Comprehensive understanding of train accidents on shared-use corridors is critical for rational allocation of resources to reduce train accident risk. This study presents the initial results to understand what the most important contributors are to the risk of train accidents on shared-used rail corridors. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Railway Operations Class

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Increasing the number and diversity of rail focused courses is an important step in rebuilding America’s railway education infrastructure. Currently, most college level rail courses are on railway civil engineering topics. A new course jointly developed by the Universities of Tennessee and South Carolina addresses railway operations. Providing engineering students with a better understanding of operations can improve infrastructure design and maintenance practices. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Nonlinear Track-Railroad Vehicle Interaction

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This investigation describes a new nonlinear formulation based on the absolute nodal coordinate formulation (ANCF) for modeling the dynamic interaction between rigid wheels and flexible rails. The generalized forces and spin moments at the contact points are formulated in terms of the absolute coordinates and gradients of ANCF finite elements used to model the rail. To this end, a new procedure for formulating the generalized ANCF applied moment based on a continuum mechanics approach is introduced. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Automatic Method for Detecting and Categorizing Railcar Wheel and Bearing Defects

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This project will focus on automatically detecting flat-spotted wheels from thermal imagery using computer vision methods. In addition to that, we introduce a novel algorithm to detect hot bearings. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Elasto-Viscoplastic Modeling of Rail Ballast and Subgrade

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Settlement of Rail Ballast and Subballast is a major issue in the rail industry. In this research, we develop a three-invariant soil model capable of simulating the settlement of soil under repeated loads. This model can be incorporated into finite element analysis of soils under the dynamic motions of trains. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Coupled Rail-Ballast-Subgrade Analysis of Train Dynamics

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

In this project, we develop an integrated multibody dynamics and finite element model that include wheel-rail contact and deformation of the rail, fasteners, ties, ballast, sub-ballast and subgrade. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Structural Adhesive Behavior – Experimental and Computational Study

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

In this brief, an experimental and computational study aiming to investigate the structural adhesive behavior at different loading scenarios is presented. The objectives of this research are: i) investigate the behavior of structural adhesive by characterizing their mechanical properties, and ii) establish a representative material model that can mimic their behavior and can be used in numerical models for computational studies. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Switch Geometry Modeling using ANCF

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The objective of this work is to develop a new finite element based procedure for representing surface geometry in MBS contact problems. This procedure ensures a certain degree of continuity at the element interface, thereby allowing for more accurate predictions of kinetics results that include the contact forces. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Study of Liquid Sloshing using a Multibody Approach

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The objective of this investigation is to develop a total Lagrangian liquid sloshing solution procedure based on finite element floating frame reference (FFR) formulation and absolutely nodal coordinate formulation (ANCF). Click here to read the detailed brief.

New Semester Course in Railway Terminal Design & Operations

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

In the new Railway Terminal Design & Operations course (CEE 598 RTD) developed as a NURail education project, students learn details of the design, operations planning, management, and optimization of the terminal facilities required for the railway network to function as an efficient freight transportation system. The focus is on design of classification yards, intermodal facilities and bulk terminals, and how these facilities are organized into a network to provide different types of freight transportation service by rail. Click here to read the detailed brief.

"Grow Our Own" Minority STEM Initiative: Partnering in Outreach

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The railroad programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-­‐Champaign and Michigan Technological University are supporting efforts led by Hanson Professional Services, a civil engineering consulting firm headquartered in Springfield, IL, to expose underrepresented groups to railway engineering and “grow our own” next generation of civil engineering leaders. Program coordinators at Hanson work with nearby schools and local organizations to identify minority students in the Springfield community with an interest in STEM topics. Students are then matched with appropriate programs to foster their interest. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Summer Youth Program in Rail and Intermodal Transportation

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Since 2010, Michigan Technological University has offered a Summer Youth Program (SYP) in Rail and Intermodal Transportation. The program hosts a diverse group of students in grades 9-11 representing 17 states. The structure of the program consists of classwork, tours, and hands-on activities. The mission statement of the program is "a collaboration to attract a new generation." Click here to read the detailed brief.

Railroad Engineering Education Symposium (REES) 2012

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The Railway Engineering Education Symposium (REES) is intended to foster the participation of university faculty in railway engineering with the goal of encouraging and supporting their interest in adding railway engineering content to their engineering courses and curricula. REES 2012 was held June 11-13, 2012 in Overland Park, KS at the Johnson County Community College (JCCC). REES 2012 presented basic railway education materials, but also added more advanced material targeted toward professors who returned to REES to deepen their understanding of the railroad industry. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Railroad Projects at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Three rail related projects were taken on as part of the year-long Senior Design Capstone class. Two rail projects were also part of the Freshman Design class. During the spring of 2014 students in the Railroad Engineering class designed and constructed a 60 foot section of track at the Wabash Valley Railroaders Museum. The track is used to display a WWII Pullman Troop Sleeper car. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Rail Highway Grade Crossing Roughness Quantitative Measurement Using 3D Technology

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This research reports on the development of an accurate, low cost and readily deployable sensor capable of rapidly collecting a 3D surface model of a rail crossing in its present state. This is seen as a first step towards automating the crossing inspection process, ultimately leading to the quantification and estimation of future performance of rail crossing. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Quantifying Rail-Highway Grade Crossing Roughness: Accelerations and Dynamic Modeling

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Quality of surface is an important aspect affecting both the safety and performance of rail-highway grade crossings. No quantitative method currently exists to assess the condition of rail crossings in order to evaluate the performance of crossings and set a quantitative trigger for their rehabilitation. This research reports on the use of LiDAR to collect a 3D surface point cloud as input to a customized vehicle dynamic model. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Amtrak’s Productivity in the Northeast Corridor: Past and Future

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Productivity analysis, the relationship between outputs and inputs in any given process, is used to evaluate the performance of the main passenger rail services in the Northeast Corridor during FY 2002--‐2012 and to make inferences about high--‐speed rail for the next 30 years. Click here to read the detailed brief.

The Impact of Amtrak Performance in the Northeast Corridor

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The performance of Amtrak’s Acela and Regional services in the Northeast Corridor is a topic that, while frequently discussed as substandard by some travelers, has received minimal attention in the compendium of open source research literature. This brief focuses on Amtrak’s Acela and Regional travel time performance in the last ten years (2005 to 2014). Click here to read the detailed brief.

Cross-Infrastructure Learnings for Alternative Bridge System Designs – A Case Study on the Hybrid Composite Bridge System

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Compared to traditional materials, the hybrid composite beam (HCB) system is lighter in weight and has great potential as a sustainable design solution due to the protective FRP outer shell. This investigation was limited to the evaluation of the in-service performance of an in-service HCB bridge constructed in Virginia. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Wayne Industries Site Expansion

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Wayne Industries provides warehousing and transportation of steel coils and aluminum primarily for the automotive industry. They approached the Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program with a request to develop alternatives for expanding their steel warehousing operation in Wayne, MI to better handle changing operational needs. Click here to read the detailed brief.

RFID in Railway Operations

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The purpose of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology research project is to prepare a comprehensive report covering RFID technology and current use in the rail industry. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Rail Shunt Connection Test System

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

This project explores the key features and practical implications of a device by which the effectiveness of a rail shunt can be measured. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Surface Material Performance

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Performance of the surface material at grade crossings is an ongoing challenge. This study reviewed the literature on grade crossing surface materials from MDOT. The team found that data currently available was not adequate to perform credible analysis of the situation, and developed a recommendation for a new grade crossing data collection process. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Rail Car Coupler

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The current Janney railcar coupler has not seen many changes for a long time. The main objective of this project was to increase the lifespan of the coupler through design and material changes, without affecting the freight car or train operations. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Center Beam to Frac Sand Railcar Conversion

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

The demand for Center Beam railcars has reduced in recent years. Recommissioning the cars for a different function with feasible modifications would financially benefit the industry. Students at Michigan Tech have found they can be converted into flat cars that could carry frac-sand for the growing Midwestern oil and natural gas industry. Click here to read the detailed brief.

Intelligent Railroad Crossing Maintenance Jumper

Concrete Crosstie Fastener project

Jumper cables are used to disable crossing signals for maintenance. In rare occasions, they may be forgotten due to human error, and the disabled crossing signals pose a risk to human life. The goal of this project is to design a device with jumper cables or signal crossing devices to lessen the impact of human error. Click here to read the detailed brief.

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Upcoming Events


APR4 - 7 2017

Philadelphia, PA
Joint Rail Conference (JRC)

JUL9 - 15 2017
AUG15 - 17 2017

Who We Are


The NURail Center is a rail-focused seven-university consortium led by the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

We are a Tier-1 University Transportation Center (UTC) under the US Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research & Technology (OST-R) program working to improve and expand rail education, research, workforce development, and technology transfer.

Members of the consortium are:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois at Chicago
    College of Engineering
    CUPPA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michigan Technological University
University of Kentucky
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Contact


NURail Center
1239B Newmark Engineering Laboratory, MC-250
205 N. Mathews Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801

Tel: (217) 244-4999
Fax: (217) 333-9464
NURail-Center@illinois.edu