The national emphasis on highway transportation and a lack of demand for graduates in rail related fields led to a decades long neglect of rail transportation and engineering education by universities in the United States (U.S.). However, the vitality of the private sector freight railroads, along with a growing interest in rail passenger transportation is creating a strong demand for graduates with rail expertise, particularly in engineering and related technical fields. This has re-energized the academic community, and several universities are currently either investigating or implementing rail-related programs. They are finding, however, that the information and knowledge needed for railway engineering course development in the civil, mechanical and electrical fields is hard to find. It has been so long since most U.S. universities offered rail related courses that few present day faculty have expertise in the subject.
The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA) has teamed up with academia to address the problem through an innovative Railway Engineering Education Symposium (REES). This program brings university professors together to learn the basics of rail transportation and railway civil engineering and to return with materials that can be used for course implementation. REES has been organized biannually since 2008 and is considered a great success, making it a model for extension to railway mechanical and electrical engineering. This paper describes the reasoning behind development of REES, content and organization of the symposium, and its evolution. It also describes REES outcomes based on participant surveys conducted after each event and provides examples showing how universities have used REES to launch railway focused classes.