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NURail’s Featured Video for June
June 9, 2016

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, discusses how knowledge is shared through NURail. Dr. Clarke is active in national efforts to promote railway research and education, and teaches classes and short courses on rail subjects.

TRAC Registration Now Open
May 20, 2016

The Railway Academic Conference (TRAC) will be held on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus on July 12 – 14, 2016 to build on synergy between the AREMA Railway Engineering Education Symposium (REES) event and National University Rail (NURail) Center education and workforce development initiatives. TRAC is a three-day event, with REES activities and the NURail Annual Meeting each comprising half of the program.

Why Should I Attend? This conference aims to:

  • Inform educators, industry professionals, and students about current developments in railroad engineering education, workforce development and outreach programs.
  • Facilitate sharing of education materials designed to introduce students to railway infrastructure, operations, engineering, and design concepts.
  • Strengthen collaboration between academia and industry to meet the challenge of developing the next generation of railroad professionals
Click here to view the draft agenda. For additional information, visit the TRAC webpage.

Rail Research Discussed
May 3, 2016

This month listen to Dr. Ahmed A. Shabana, University Distinguished Professor and the Richard and Loan Hill Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discuss what interests him about his rail research. Dr. Shabana is an internationally recognized leader in the field of computational mechanics and nonlinear multibody dynamics, including rail applications. His 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.

Magazine Features NURail Affiliate Member’s Rail Program
April 25, 2016

The Winter 2016 issue of the Penn State Altoona magazine, Ivy Leaf, features an eight page article about their new Rail Transportation Engineering program. Established in 2011, the program graduated its first class in May 2015. Penn State Altoona is a NURail Affiliate Member and is the first and only college in the country to offer a bachelor of science degree in rail transportation engineering. Click here to read the article.

Save the Date!
April 21, 2016

Mark your calendars now for three upcoming Michigan Tech programs. First is the Rail and Intermodal Transportation Summer Youth Program which will take place the week of July 17-23. This is an opportunity for high school students to explore the rail industry and its connections with other transportation modes. More detailed information is available on their website at http://www.rail.mtu.edu/event/rail-and-intermodal-transportation-summer-youth-program-2016. If you know of a youth who is interested in trains let them know immediately because the deadline for applications is May 2, 2016.

The second event is the 4th Annual Michigan Rail Conference which will be held in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this year. Save the date for August 17-18 and join Michigan Tech for a full day Wednesday centered on railroad issues across the state, followed by Thursday’s field trip spanning half of the UP. For registration, more information and partnership, please visit the conference web site at http://www.rail.mtu.edu/event/4th-annual-michigan-rail-conference.

The last date to know is September 22 – 23 for the Michigan Tech Rail Day and Expo and 12th Annual Railroad Night. As an on-going tradition for the last decade, the 12th Annual Railroad Night will start with activities on the evening of the 22nd, bringing together rail industry representatives, Michigan Tech students, staff, and faculty, and members of the local community. Rail Day, with its rail industry displays designed to inform the student body about opportunities in the industry and motivate them to seek jobs with industry companies and with sessions showcasing the rail research and education at Michigan Tech, is on Friday, the 23rd. For more information, registration and sponsorship, visit http://www.rail.mtu.edu/event/3rd-annual-rail-day-and-student-expo.

NURail Represented at JRC
April 18, 2016

NURail associated faculty and students attending the 2016 JRC

The 2016 Joint Rail Conference (JRC) was held this year in Columbia, SC on April 12 – 15, 2016. In two special JRC sessions, twelve NURail students and faculty, representing both partner and affiliate schools, gave short presentations. This is the fourth year in a row for NURail to highlight their research and education activities at JRC.

NURail Student Receives Outstanding Student Award
April 11, 2016

University of Kentucky student, Mr. Macy Purcell, has been selected as the recipient of UK’s College of Engineering Dean’s Award for Outstanding Master’s Student. The award consists of an engraved plaque and a cash award. He will be honored at the College of Engineering Awards Reception scheduled for Monday April 25, 5:30-7:30 pm in the Hilary J. Boone Center. Macy is actively pursuing his MSCE degree in Civil Engineering and will complete requirements in the Fall 2016 semester. He has also co-authored six research reports/technical papers during the past two years. Macy has been involved with collaborative research projects with the University of Tennessee and the University of Illinois through the NURail Center. These projects have involved both experimental laboratory testing and in-track instrumentation and testing of railway trackbeds.

Click HERE for more news.

Featured Project


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.

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Upcoming Events


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