Brief Background on the RAILER System

RAILER® is a railroad track asset management system designed as a decision support tool for evaluating track conditions and planning track sustainment, restoration, and modernization (SRM) activities on military, short line, and industrial track networks. Developed by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center's Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (ERDC-CERL) in cooperation with US Army and US Navy support, the RAILER® system has been in use since the late 1980's.

The RAILER System

There are thousands of miles of military, short line, and industrial railroad track that serves a vital role in transportation for the Department of Defense and the private economy. Due to lower speeds and frequency of use, this track has maintenance and management requirements which typically differ from the large Class I commercial railroads. However, in order to ensure this safe and reliable mode of transportation, and protect the nation's investment, these track networks still need to be periodically inspected and continually maintained. With tightening budgets and an aging rail infrastructure, it is also important to ensure the track networks are maintained cost efficiently. RAILER® EMS is a knowledge based track management program that gives planners decision support in the sustainment, restoration, and modernization (SRM) of their track network. It combines condition assessment, work plan generation, and spatial analysis through a companion Geographical Information System (GIS) program to help provide support for informed decisions to managers.

The first step in the RAILER® implementation process is the creation of track inventory. This is a physical survey of what makes up the track network, and includes pertinent information about the rail, ties, switches, culverts, curves, grades, grade crossings, etc. A key part of this inventory process involves establishing a track naming convention and stationing scheme. The stationing helps to establish a reference point and location for each track. It also makes it easier to locate defects during the inspection and subsequent repair. Once the inventory is collected, a detailed inspection of the track is done to establish a Track Structure Condition Index (TSCI), which provides a metric for the physical condition of the track. In addition to the TSCI, operational restrictions based on the governing track standard are placed on the tracks as specific defects are identified.

This information is used to make informative decisions in the development of efficient short and long-range work plans. Using the TSCI and the track standards with a customized set of business rules and prioritization schemes, managers can use the software to narrow down a long list of deficiencies to a filtered list of the most important work based on the condition and operations for the track. The RAILER® process provides important support for key SRM decisions. In addition, the results of inventory, condition assessment, and M&R plan development can be displayed spatially in a GIS to give a unique viewpoint of the track network and its ability to perform as required. Finally, knowledge-based principles can be used to develop an effective and sustainable inspection frequency based on both detailed and operational safety inspections.


RAILER Remote Entry Database (RED)® is provided with the RAILER® SMS software to allow for electronic collection of inventory and inspection information while in the field. This software can be installed on a tablet PC for quick, accurate, and easy data collection for direct upload into RAILER® software when back at the office. The RAILER RED® software also displays defect findings from a previous inspection for verification if the defect was fixed or still remains. In addition, it displays the operating restriction for a recorded defect in real time based on the governing track standard.

Benefits of Implementing and Using RAILER

  • Knowledge of track inventory
  • Structured inspection approach tailored to management need
  • Use of RAILER RED® for track inventory and inspection data collection
  • Instant access of stored information
  • Tabular and graphical condition comparison to various track standards and a condition index scale
  • Establish deterioration rates for ties, rail, ballast, and the track as a whole
  • User-specified maintenance and repair policies and costs
  • Rapid estimates of needed work
  • Structured approach to prioritize work based on user-set criteria
  • Ability to develop work plans, including specific projects
  • Ability to display track information on a map display through GIS