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The Railway Academic Conference (TRAC)
November 18, 2015

The Railway Academic Conference (TRAC) will be held at UIUC 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 will be a three-day event, with REES activities and the NURail Annual Meeting each comprising half of the program. Building on similar goals and objectives, TRAC will further inform educators, industry professionals, and students about current developments in railroad engineering education, workforce development and outreach programs. Through the REES component, TRAC will facilitate sharing of education materials designed to introduce students to railway infrastructure, operations, engineering, and design concepts. By combining these activities, TRAC aims to strengthen collaboration between academia and industry to meet the challenge of developing the next generation of railroad professionals.

Hay Seminar on BNSF-UP Tower 55 Project
November 13, 2015

The first William W. Hay Seminar of the semester was held on Friday, November 13, 2015 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mark Martin, Senior Rail Project Manager with HDR Engineering, presented “Design and Construction of the BSNF-UP Tower 55 Project in Fort Worth, Texas”. The lecture was well received and there were over 90 online participants, almost doubling a typical seminar. To listen to a recording of the presentation, click here.

Off-Peak Delivery Research Webcast
October 15, 2015

James C. LaBelle, research staff member at the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, delivered a well-received webcast on Off-Peak Delivery research, funded in part through NURail. The webcast was hosted by the Center for Urban Transportation Research. A recorded version of the webcast is available from this link.

2015 AREMA Conference
October 5, 2015

Over 60 students from NURail partner universities attended the 2015 AREMA Conference in Minneapolis in October. In addition to attending technical sessions and giving poster presentations, many worked the NURail booth in the exhibition hall. UIUC’s (NURail’s lead university) two teams scored first and fourth in the AREMA “Student Quiz Bowl” competition, while Penn State Altoona’s (a NURail affiliate university) two teams took second and third. The competition consisted of four rounds of questions related to railroad engineering, operations, history and trivia. AREMA also held a student research poster competition with both graduate and undergraduate categories. In this competition, UIUC’s grad students took first and second place while a UIUC undergrad entry took first in that category.

NURail PI Research Featured in Mass Transit Magazine
September 18, 2015

To gain a strategic perspective on the impact of a shared use passenger and freight rail corridors, a research study was undertaken to better understand challenges, identify some potential solutions and provide key stakeholders — freight railroads, Amtrak schedulers and federal and state policymakers — with a new resource. The report, “Integrated Modeling of High Performance Passenger and Freight Train Operation Planning on Shared Use Rail Corridors: A Focus on the US Context,” was written by Dr. Bo Zou, Assistant Professor, Civil and Materials Engineering, in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Results from this research provide a new framework for short-term train tactical and operational schedule planning and offer practical and general insights into future rail planning on shared use corridors now or a few years down the line. Click here to read the report.

3rd Annual Michigan Rail Conference a success
September 10, 2015

The 3rd Annual Michigan Rail Conference took place on August 19-20, 2015 at the Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids. The conference broke earlier participant records with over 150 total registrations and 16 conference sponsors. The conference was co-organized by the Michigan Tech’s Rail Transportation Program (RTP), National University Rail Center (NURail) and the Michigan Department of Transportation. Keynote speaker was Mr. Joe Szabo, Executive Director of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and past Administrator for the Federal Railway Administration. For more information, click here to go to the conference website. ]

Michigan Tech Partner Quoted in Article
September 9, 2015

The Detroit Free Press quoted Pasi Lautala, NURail Partner at Michigan Technological University, in an article on a plan to create a special logistics and supply chain district near the new bridge to Canada and downtown Detroit. Pasi is the Associate Director for Education of NURail. He is also a member of Governor Rick Snyder’s Commission for Logistics and Supply Chain Collaboration. Click here to read the article.

NURail Partner featured in TR News Profile
August 28, 2015

NURail Partner, David B. Clarke, Research Associate Professor and Director, Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was featured in the June-July-August 2015 edition of TR News. Dave has been involved in the NURail Center since its inception. He is active in national efforts to promote railway research and education, and teaches classes and short courses on rail subjects. Click here to read the article.

Click HERE for more news.

Featured Project

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. 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. 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.

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Upcoming Events

Nov 20 2015
Dec 4 2015
Jan 10 2016

3:00p.m. Washington, D.C.
NURail meeting at TRB

Apr 12 - 15 2016

Columbia, SC
2016 JRC

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) 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
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michigan Technological University
University of Kentucky
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


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

Tel: (217) 244-4999
Fax: (217) 333-9464