Rose-Hulman Training Future Railroad Leaders

Posted: Updated:

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is part of a national effort to train future railroad engineers. It is associated with the National University Rail Center, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It is also one of 17 colleges with a student chapter of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association, which enhances learning opportunities for students seeking careers in the rail industry. December 26, 2013

News Release

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- As part of a multi-university rail transportation initiative, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is offering a variety of courses and training opportunities to pass the torch to the next generation of railroad engineers.

“The railroad industry really needs employees with strong backgrounds in civil engineering, along with electrical and mechanical systems, to keep on the forefront of technology innovation in this expanding career field,” said James McKinney, PhD, emeriti professor of civil engineering.

Rose-Hulman is one of 17 colleges and universities with a student chapter of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), a railroad engineering course was taught for the first time last spring and graduating seniors are earning post-graduation positions with railroad companies.

These are among the benefits of Rose-Hulman’s association with the National University Rail (NURail) Center, led by the University of Illinois and supported through a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration.

Rose-Hulman AREMA members have visited railroad operations and historical sites throughout Indiana and Illinois, and earned national scholarships to support their educational goals in the railroad career field.

“The future of the railroad engineering field is a strong one and I want to be a part of it,” said Samuel Beck, a senior mechanical engineering student and AREMA vice president, whose interest in railroad engineering started as a child. His father spent a majority of his career in the railroad industry. “I was definitely hooked from the beginning. I was fascinated by the sheer size and power of the equipment,” he says.

That youthful exuberance also brought Greg Frech, AREMA President and a senior civil engineering student, to the railroad engineering field.

“I always found it to be a unique field to study,” he remarked. “I wanted to learn more about the railroads from a technical perspective.”

Frech’s interest grew after completing a summer research project that examined rail tie abrasion at the University of Illinois. He made a presentation on the subject a NURail education conference this fall.

Beck and Frech have accepted employment opportunities with BNSF Railway—Beck as a mechanical management trainee in Kansas City and Frech as an engineering management trainee in Galesburg, Ill.

“One of the biggest things I’m excited for working in the rail industry is that it’s an in-the-field job. It involves working odd hours, in all weather conditions, with your hands, while thinking critically in dynamic situations,” Frech said. “I like that on-the-spot mentality far more than a 9-to-5 grind, sitting at a desk designing one small component of a much larger system.”

Beck spent three summers in internship and mechanical co-op experiences with Norfolk Southern Railway, applying many mechanical concepts learned at Rose-Hulman toward a variety of projects.

“One day I was underneath a freight car torching out a draft gear and the next day I was spending 14 hours at a derailment site,” he said. “The railroad industry isn’t for everyone. It is a 24/7 operation in all weather conditions, and the equipment we work around is dangerous. Even as an intern, I worked days, nights and weekends. Also, relocation is prevalent as the railroads’ systems encompass more than 20,000 miles of track. Finally, companies are looking for individuals who are yearning for a career, not just a job.”

Joining Rose-Hulman as NURail partners are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Tennessee, University of Kentucky, University of Illinois at Chicago and Michigan Technological University.

About Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Founded in 1874, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is dedicated to preparing its students with the world’s best undergraduate science, engineering, and mathematics education in an environment infused with innovation, intellectual rigor, and individualized attention. The college, located in Terre Haute, Indiana, has an enrollment of approximately 2,000 undergraduate students and 100 graduate students. For 15 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has rated Rose-Hulman as the top undergraduate engineering college in the nation whose highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s. Rose-Hulman has also been recognized by The Princeton Review, which cited six of the institute’s professors within their 2012 Best 300 Professors book, the only institution of higher learning in Indiana to be included. Learn more at www.rose-hulman.edu.

Source: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology