In the railways, we are always pursuing excellence. We know that continued gains in safety, efficiency, reliability and sustainability are within reach through new technologies and long-term research.

For our team of railroad experts and specialists at MxV Rail (formerly TTCI), this year has been an unprecedented opportunity to design brand new infrastructure for the research, testing and technology that our industry will need in the future.

We started from a blank canvas and designed a new test facility capable of driving the future of innovation and safety in rail. We took the lessons learned from more than 20 years in operation to design our new infrastructure. Our creation is based on institutional knowledge and the insights we’ve gathered from collaborating with freight and passenger railroads, suppliers, academic institutions and government partners. As a team, we always come back to the question, “what will best serve the rail industry for decades to come?”

Ben Bakkum, Principal Investigator I at MxV Rail

A natural extension of having modern infrastructure and facilities is that MxV Rail operations are more efficient, more adaptable and in many ways more economical. Here are a few of the enhancements that our partners can look forward to as new test tracks come online this fall.

Higher Test Speeds on the Impact Track & “Crash Wall”

MxV Rail’s new impact track and crash wall are located on the south side of the PuebloPlex campus. The new wall and track, constructed in just over 14 working days, are key assets available for industry use. Testing the impact forces of trains and their components is essential to further improve railway safety, and by testing at higher speeds we will advance research and reduce safety risks.

The installation of a new crash wall gave our engineering team the opportunity to examine the upcoming needs of the industry and build the expanded capabilities necessary to meet client projects well into the future. The newly commissioned track is a half-mile long at a 1.5% downhill grade. The new infrastructure can support maximum test speeds of 30 miles per hour, which is a 10-mph improvement over what we’ve tested in the past. The higher speeds allow for more flexibility in test planning and a broader understanding of the forces associated with higher speed impacts.

Leveraging MxV Rail Expertise

As we continue to establish the new infrastructure and laboratory facilities, MxV Rail’s talented team remains focused on continuity of service and keeping construction schedules on time. Simultaneously, we are moving an estimated $75-100 million in assets to support the new operations. This includes our Rolling Contact Fatigue Simulator; Dynamometer; 660 Load Frame; Metallurgy Lab; Rolling Stock and more. When completed, MxV Rail’s new operation will offer a modern, independent, and cost-effective test facility with the flexibility to expand as industry needs evolve.

It Takes a Team: Moving the MxV Rail Air Brake Lab

I’m inspired as I drive into work every day. When I see our heavy equipment team and all the track moving into place, I know that we are innovating in rail testing and that means a brighter future for us all. Our team is best when challenged, and we have risen to every challenge this year. I look forward to the future which starts with us having a vision, and getting even better, together.


About MxV Rail: MxV Rail, formerly TTCI, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads established to support the development and safe deployment of innovative technologies to increase the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the railroad industry. The team offers a full suite of advisory and research services including testing, research, consulting, maintaining standards, and training.

Ben Bakkum is a Principal Investigator I at MxV Rail. He has over a decade of experience in the rail industry and has been with MxV Rail since 2015. At present, Bakkum is construction coordinator for the track-related infrastructure the team is building at its new facility in Pueblo, CO. He describes the role as a “once in a career” opportunity and looks forward to new efficiencies and capabilities coming for AAR members.