TTCI's assets set it apart from other research and testing facilities. One-of-a-kind test machines provide TTCI engineers with the tools to test and evaluate railroad products and/or improvement concepts. Computer models, designed to predict railroad equipment performance, help TTCI provide clients with a look at proposed designs prior to prototype fabrication.

Through continuous quality improvement, strategic reinvestment, and customer-driven acquisitions, TTCI is constantly working to improve its technology assets. Engineers prefer TTCI’s one of kind test environment offering highly specialized full-scale and component laboratories. TTCI’s laboratories house highly sophisticated testing equipment to answer questions regarding fatigue, durability, ride comfort, and truck suspension.

Rail Dynamics Laboratory - RDL

The RDL can test vehicles, simulating stresses from a long period of train operations in a very short time and make fatigue life predictions available in weeks instead of years. This one-of-a-kind test environment includes highly specialized engineers who use full-scale component laboratories to give customers the answers they are looking for.

  • The Simuloader - SMU

    The Simuloader is a computer controlled, electro-hydraulic structural test device for applying dynamic forces directly to a full-scale railcar body, highway vehicles and other heavy structures. It is used for full-scale multi-axial fatigue and durability testing of railcars, locomotives, transit buses, and truss sections. Using random parameter control, the SMU inputs motions directly into the vehicle’s carbody through the carbody bolster. The SMU uses up to 13 actuators with piston capacities varying up to 750 kilopounds (thousand pounds) and 12 inches of stroke. It is designed to simulate stress from a long period of train operations in a very short time, making fatigue life predictions available in weeks instead of years. The resulting fatigue analysis serves as an excellent source of design information, and safety evaluation for the designer.

  • The Vibration Test Unit - VTU

    The VTU is a computer controlled, full-scale laboratory test device used by customers in evaluating suspension characteristics of rail vehicles, component and vehicle natural frequencies, ride comfort, and lading responses. The VTU is used in modal characterization to include rigid body roll, pitch, bounce, yaw, and flexible modes of railcars, locomotives, and lading as well as in ride quality evaluations. It uses 12 actuators with piston capacities varying up to 50 thousand pounds (kilopounds) and 6 inches of stroke. The VTU shakes a rail vehicle vertically and laterally through the wheels to simulate, through computer modeling, the track interface with the car over varied track geometry. Computer generated track profiles, or recordings of actual track profiles, are used to drive the actuators, which can be positioned to accept a variety of truck spacings or axle arrangements. The VTU has the capability of inducing vibrations in the frequency range of 0.2 to 30 Hz to the test car. The VTU can also be used to test nonrail vehicles such as buses and off-road construction equipment. The test device can be modified to accommodate a 4-axle rail vehicle up to 90 feet long and 160 tons, and up to a 66-inch wheel gage. The unit can also be modified to accommodate other truck configurations.

  • Squeeze Frame

    The squeeze test facility is designed to apply compressive forces at standard rail coupler height through the bodies of rail vehicles. The fixture is used to show compliance with compressive end load tests under AAR Standard Specifications for Freight Cars, M-1001, Chapter 11, Service Worthiness Tests and Analyses for New Freight Cars.

    The squeeze test facility allows compressive load tests of passenger cars equipped with crash energy management (CEM) systems. Four longitudinal actuators have the ability to be operated in stroke control, meaning that all actuators stroke in unison. Actuators can also be operated in force control if a test requires it. Two actuators have 1,000,000-pound load capacity and two have 300,000-pound capacity. The total longitudinal load capacity is 2,600,000 pounds. Locations of the actuators can be adjusted to the particular needs of a test vehicle.

    Eight load cells measure forces applied by the actuator and forces reacted by restraints at the passive end of the car. Measurement of all applied and reacted longitudinal loads allows determination of the load path through a test vehicle when multiple actuators are used.

  • The Rolling Load Test Machine

    The Rolling Load Test Machine simulates the effects of rolling loads of wheels on the rail. Through computer control, the device is capable of producing wheel surface traction. The evaluation of wear and fatigue leading to plastic deformation is made possible through the use of the Rolling Load Test Machine. The tests can lead to a better understanding of how rail defects occur over time, with various contact stresses. The machine has also been instrumental in evaluating the performance of joints and insulated joints.

  • 660 Machine (Bolster and Side-frame Testing)

    The 660 machine consists of two 330,000 pound (150 MT) servo-hydraulic vertical actuators that are computer controlled and suspended vertically to a cross head on a reaction frame. Its primarily used to conduct fatigue certification tests on bolsters and side frames as per AAR Standards M-202 and M-203. Actuators can be configured to input loads for tri-axial tests on side frames.


Train Air Brake Research Facility

TTCI’s Train Air Brake Research Facility consists of 150 complete car sets of air brake equipment. Operated independently of the air brake manufacturers, the test rack is used purely for research. Capable of simulating a diverse range of train types and lengths, these simulations are used to analyze ways to improve the current air brake system. In addition, this facility plays a vital role in the development of new and advanced braking systems. The control room contains a computerized data collection system and the locomotive brake valve.

Rolling Load Test Machines

TTCI maintains several rolling load test machines to simulate the effects of rolling loads of wheels on the rail. These computer controlled devices are capable of producing wheel surface traction allowing evaluation of wear and fatigue leading to plastic deformation. This provides better understanding of how rail defects occur over time with various contact stresses.


TTCI’s unique single-ended inertia dynamometer is used to conduct research and tests on railroad wheels, axles, and brake shoes. The dynamometer has the capability to apply a wide range of normal and excessive thermal and mechanical loads to railroad wheels. A unique feature is the large circular reaction rail through which vertical and lateral contact forces can be applied. A computer control system provides repeatable automatic control of test sequences, speed, and brake shoe force or torque control. The data acquisition system provides automatic digital data collection, storage, and reduction.

The stringent test requirements of the AAR’s Specification for High Friction Composition Brake Shoes, M-926-92 can be met with the TTCI dynamometer. Currently, the AAR dynamometer is used to conduct both commercial developmental testing and official AAR certification testing. The dynamometer is also used by the AAR in the development of improvements to the current brake shoe standards.

Roller Bearing Test Facility

The Roller Bearing Test Facility houses four full-scale bearing test devices. Each device is capable of simulating the in-service environment of roller bearings. Temperatures in the environmentally controlled rooms can be varied from +130 degrees to 50-degrees Fahrenheit. Research is conducted to better understand the behavior and deterioration process of bearings and to evaluate energy consumption based on various bearing configurations.

Track Loading Vehicle - TLV

The TLV is designed to apply forces close to the strength limits of the rails and other track structure components, such as ties, rail fasteners, and ballast, while moving or stationary. The TLV is a unique research tool that leads the industry’s efforts in reducing the risk of derailment. The AAR-100 research car is operated with the TLV and houses the electronic computer equipment that performs all the automatic control, measurement, and data acquisition functions to operate the TLV.

Instrumented Wheelsets

Instrumented wheelsets are capable of accurately measuring wheel/rail forces. The wheelset is calibrated to establish scale factors for data collection. The wheel is put in service to provide feedback on rail conditions. The wheelsets are also used to measure wheel/rail forces for new car design certifications. They can be used with the on-track loading vehicle as an accurate measurement tool for flange climb derailment studies.

Center Plate Tester

The Center Plate Tester is used to test center-bowl lubricants and liners. This machine is important tool in the study of rail rollover derailments and the development of specifications for center-bowl liners and lubricants.

Bridge Infrastructure

An important aspect of railroad operations is the quality of its bridge infrastructure. TTCI research plays an key role in ensuring that test structures are capable of handling ever increasing axle loads. Through field testing and analytical studies, the different types of railway bridges are being characterized. In addition, TTCI has developed a computer model that can determine the remaining life of a steel railway bridge due to fatigue loading.

Metallurgical Laboratory and Components Testing

In the field of metallurgy, TTC is equipped to run laboratory tests on track and rolling stock components and materials. The testing lab contains scanning-electron, stereo-optical, and x-ray microscopes. Specimens of rail, wheels, and other components are subjected to mechanical testing, micro, Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests. Laboratory capabilities also include nondestructive evaluation to include liquid penetrant, magnetic particle, ultrasonic and visual testing. The Component Test Laboratory (CTL) provides a facility for various tests of track and equipment components. Full-scale wheel saw-cutting facilities, scaled-down drop (impact) test fixture for tank car heads, calibration fixtures for instrumented wheelsets and track components, such as ties, are also available in the CTL.