Rail transportation is fundamentally efficient, combining high capacity with low friction, which gives it a potentially transformative role to play as engineers design a carbon-neutral future with more trade and less traffic congestion. To get up to speed with the cutting-edge technology in this legendary industry, on Friday 12/7/2018, CU Denver sent a delegation of nine individuals to Pueblo, Colorado for a field trip to the Transportation Technology Center, which is owned and operated by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
The field trip, organized by CU Denver’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), gathered two civil engineering faculty, four civil engineering students and one professional mechanical engineer from Progress Rail, the company behind the famed Electro-Motive Division series of diesel-electric locomotives. CU Denver’s delegation also included two anthropology students, which proves that being an engineer is not necessary to appreciate the technical, historical and cultural impact of railroading on our modern world.
The delegation gathered by North Classroom at 6 a.m., then started a personalized tour at 10 a.m., hosted by AAR’s Duane Otter. Over the following five hours, Otter provided a phenomenal overview of the breadth, depth and rigor of the research performed at the one-of-a-kind facility, comprising 52 square miles, where every aspect of railroad technology is tested—track, trains and signals. For example, AAR operates a test track where an overloaded coal train runs all night to deliberately wear out track components. Those track components include several Victorian bridges, constructed of riveted steel, whose continued satisfactory performance has been demonstrated in the most compelling manner—by monitoring deflections with strain gages while overloaded coal trains pass every four minutes.
ASCE faculty advisor David Mays would like to thank Otter and all the participants for making this field trip an unqualified success. Students interested in joining ASCE may do so by contacting ASCE student chapter president Alex McPherson. Student membership is free.