Last Updated S012019


Unit Code MRI506
Unit Duration 12 Weeks

Graduate Diploma of Engineering (Civil: Railway Infrastructure)

Duration: 1 year


Master of Engineering (Civil: Railway Infrastructure)

Duration: 2 years   

Year Level One
Unit Creator / Reviewer Dr Martin Murray
Core/Elective: Core
Pre/Co-requisites None
Credit Points


Grad Dip total course credit points = 24

(3 credits x 8 (units))


Masters total course credit points = 48

(3 credits x 12 (units) + 12 credits (Thesis))

Mode of Delivery On-Campus or Online
Unit Workload

10 hours per week:

Lecture - 1 hour

Tutorial Lecture - 1 hours

Assessments / Practical / Lab - 1 hour (where applicable)

Personal Study recommended - 7 hours (guided and unguided)

Unit Description and General Aims

This Unit continues the recognition of the need for Rail Civil Engineers to have a sound knowledge and clear understanding of the behaviour of the main components of rail tracks.

The rail is the immediate interface between the train vehicle and the entire supporting system and is, therefore, the element that has the most direct effect on enabling or inhibiting train operations.

Aside from ballast and sleeper rectification as described in the “Ballast, Sleepers and Fasteners” Unit, this Unit examines the costs of rail wear and grinding, the requirement to eventually replace worn rails, and rectification of track geometry – which in combination make up the bulk of maintenance expenditure by the track owner.

In conjunction with the other first year Units, the intent is for this Unit to provide students with detailed knowledge of the key elements of the track superstructure and the important contributions which these components make to the operation of rail systems.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Check and judge problems associated with the analysis, maintenance, and management of rails in track.

           Bloom’s Level 5

  1. Evaluate information necessary for and appropriate to the solution of those problems.

           Bloom’s Level 5

  1. Test and validate the characteristics of rails and the principles of the selection and maintenance of rails towards the safe operation of trains.

         Bloom’s Level 5

  1. Critically judge the operation of rail-related track structures and evaluate their maintenance requirements.

          Bloom’s Level 5

  1. Plan, generate, and construct appropriate engineering and/or management elements within a major case study incorporating rail and related track structures.

          Bloom’s Level 6

Student assessment

Assessment Type

When assessed

(eg Week 5)

Weighting (% of total unit marks) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Report

Word length: 1500

Topic: Specify rail standards, critically judge general issues in rail maintenance and propose solutions.

Weeks 2 10% 2

Assessment 2

Type: Case study and Presentation

Word length: N/A

Topic: Focus on a rail case relevant to the student. Investigate the safety issues, test and validate the standards of the rail and evaluate the deterioration.  

Weeks 4 15% 2, 3

Assessment 3

Type: Group discussion and Evaluation

Topic: The student is to contribute progressively to an unfolding discussion amongst their peers in this Unit on a current topic of interest in rail renewal and maintenance. A minimum of four insightful contributions is required.

Week 7 25% 1, 3

Assessment 4

Type: Report

Word length: 2000-3000

Topic: Prepare a comprehensive engineering report on a case study related to a major rail and related track structures maintenance and/or renewal project, with a view to minimising cost, maximising safety and re-use, and satisfying operational standards and requirements. The report will require careful referencing and be suitable in its format, quality of analysis, and conclusions for decision-making by senior engineers.

Embedded practical component: Students are to research and interact with software simulations for optimized results to be referenced and/or demonstrated in their final report.

Week 12 45% 1 - 5


Continuous 5% 1 - 5


Prescribed and Recommended readings

Required Textbook(s)

Rail and Related Track Structures Study Notes by Rail Innovation Australia (RIA) [existing materials] and other information and materials on their website:

Reference Materials

A number of books, peer-reviewed journals and websites as advised below:

Unit Content

One topic is delivered per contact week, with the exception of part-time 24-week units, where one topic is delivered every two weeks.


Topic 1


  1. Rail history, terminology, description
  2. Rail manufacture
  3. General issues of safety in rail maintenance


Topic 2

Loads On and Stresses In Rails

  1. Rail standards
  2. Loads
  3. Stresses and stress calculation

Topic 3

Rail Deterioration

  1. Wear and other defects
  2. Corrugations
  3. Rail joints

Topic 4

Rail Problems and Detection

  1. Visual and non-destructive detection of defects
  2. Inspection, measurement and classification of defects
  3. Deterioration rates, and rectification intervention


Topic 5

Wheel Profiling

  1. Introduction to wheel-rail interaction
  2. Wheel profiling


Topic 6

Rail and Turnout Profiling

  1. Rail profiling
  2. Wheel-rail interaction and behaviour in turnouts
  3. Turnout profiling


Topic 7

Rail Selection

  1. Principles of rail selection
  2. Design practice


Topic 8

Rail Installation

  1. Rail procurement
  2. Re-railing in track with different sleeper types
  3. Rail adjustment
  4. Cascading and transposing rails


Topic 9

Efficient Use of Rail

  1. Lubrication
  2. Rail grinding and welding
  3. Insulated rail joints


Topic 10

Rail Maintenance Practices

  1. Joining rails
  2. Actions (cutting, drilling, bonding)
  3. Rail stress management and repair


Topic 11


  1. Operation and terminology
  2. Turnout design and construction
  3. Turnout maintenance


Topic 12

Project and Unit Review

In the final week students will have an opportunity to review the contents covered so far. Opportunity will be provided for a review of student work, to clarify any outstanding issues and to work on finalising the major assessment report.

Software/Hardware Used


  • Software:  N/A

  • Version: N/A

  •  Instructions:  N/A

  •  Additional resources or files: N/A


  • Hardware: N/A