Railroads work with suppliers and industry partners to constantly evolve to meet the industry’s dynamic information technology and research needs. Two of AAR’s subsidiaries — MxV Rail and Railinc — are at the forefront of using technology, data and in-the-field research to improve North America’s rail network’s safety, efficiency and sustainability.

MxV Rail

MxV Rail is the railroad industry’s world-class rail research and testing facility. MxV Rail’s team of researchers, engineers and other experts develop and test the emerging technologies that keep railroads on the cutting edge across the world.

In April 2021, MxV Rail (then TTCI) announced plans for a new dedicated engineering and laboratory facility in Pueblo, Colorado. Through a new partnership with the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO), MxV Rail will enhance its role as the industry’s leading research, testing, and training partner, as well as solidify the organization’s commitment to its employees and the Pueblo community.

The Strategic Research Initiative (SRI), which MxV Rail supports, includes the full spectrum of research potential — from fundamental scientific investigation to implementation in revenue service. The program maintains a comprehensive portfolio of 24 initiatives within three focus areas: infrastructure systems, mechanical systems and operations systems.


PTC: Improving Safety & Capacity

Now that Positive Train Control is fully implemented and operational on required portions of the rail network, MxV Rail collaborates with industry partners to provide lifecycle management support across the industry.

Today, PTC systems focus on improving the safety of the rail network. MxV Rail is also collaborating with stakeholders to develop advanced PTC systems that can safely reduce the minimum separation required between trains when they are moving through the network, which increases the capacity of rail lines without having to build new track infrastructure. Improved safety and capacity, as well as reduced delays, are now within reach.


Novel Approaches to Track Inspections

Inspecting and maintaining the country’s railways is a major undertaking, and MxV Rail’s research brings cutting-edge technologies and new applications from other industries into the process. Electro-magnetic field imaging (EMFI) nondestructive evaluation technology is an excellent example of transferring technology from another industry to enhance rail safety.

Initially, EMFI was developed for monitoring corrosion in the oil and gas pipeline industry. As part of AAR’s Strategic Research Initiatives program, our team wanted to assess if EMFI technology could be used by railways to identify surface defects on rail.

MxV Rail helped facilitate the rapid development and testing of this technology in a rail environment. These trials are showing potential that EMFI technology can effectively assess the surface condition of track, which in turn can help rail employees determine when scheduled maintenance is needed and keep rail infrastructure in a state of good repair.

These results are available to the public via MxV Rail’s e-Library to help industry suppliers interested in expanding their product offerings.


New Collaborations in Hyperloop Testing

The world’s second operational test track for Hyperloop testing is being built by SwissPod at MxV Rail’s new test facility. Working together, the key players pioneering this technology are building bridges between the industry incumbents and the emerging leaders.

Hyperloop is an ultra-high-speed ground transportation system for passengers or cargo. The MxV Rail team is working with SwissPod to validate their patented propulsion system and to develop a full-scale capsule and operational infrastructure needed for cargo transportation. SwissPod’s goal is the widespread deployment of this carbon-neutral high-speed transportation technology by 2050.


Reimagining Rail Service

Parallel Systems is a small company looking to provide big results via battery-operated, autonomous freight rail vehicles. The ambitious goal of this California-based team of software and hardware engineers is to decarbonize freight, create new jobs and complement the current rail system by building a cleaner, automated rail future.

This technology only became public at the start of the year when Parallel Systems was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy for a $4.5 million grant to advance testing.

MxV Rail is supporting the project by contributing to the analysis, and, specifically, vehicle testing that is underway now. In a head-to-head comparison, if successful, battery-operated freight promises to be lower in energy use than trucks or electric trucks today, and lower in CO2 emissions than trucking or train currently.


Railinc is the leading provider of IT, related network operations and financial services, and near real-time network data to North America’s railroads. Founded in 1998, Railinc has built a groundbreaking computerized inventory system that logs the size, dimensions and carrying capacity of the industry’s shared fleet of railcars.

With this information, railroads can decide whether a railcar can be loaded with certain commodities. They can also map out the best routes certain car types should take to transport those commodities safely. Today, Railinc collects more railroad data than ever before. As trains travel America’s nearly 140,000-mile network, they pass intelligent sensors that track the movement and health of rail cars along the way. Railinc analyzes this information to provide railroads and their customers with essential analysis to improve safety and efficiency.

Launched by the Class Is and rail-car owners, the AHSI is a multi-year, multi-phase effort that the AAR Safety and Operations Management Committee oversees with Railinc. The goal is to provide a view of the health of rolling stock available to all stakeholders, particularly to the railroads on which the cars and locomotives are operating.