UP Career Corner

Beyond the Textbooks: Rail Yard Operations Come to Life

Posted May 27, 2016 08:00 AM CDT

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Eighteen students from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University attended Villa Grove's field day. The Union Pacific locomotive was staged for the photo - unoccupied and not running.

Recognizing the gap between the classroom and real-world rail yard operations, Union Pacific organized a university field day to bring students’ textbook knowledge to life with hands-on experience.

“This program shows students what it’s really like to work in the rail industry,” said Lydia White, manager, Engineering Services at Union Pacific.

Eighteen civil engineering students from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University attended the field day this spring at Union Pacific’s Villa Grove Subdivision. Students’ hands-on experience involved using two different technologies to detect rail defects: walking the track with a handheld tool that lights up when defects are detected; and riding in a detector car that provides a bigger picture view of rail conditions. Students observed welding and tamper applications and saw what’s involved with installing railroad ties.

“It’s interesting to see how technologically advanced the railroad industry has become,” said Jesse Turner, graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “Before the field day, when I thought of the railroad, I pictured old machinery. I didn’t think about the data collected and used, or the computers that check rails for defects. This definitely changed the way I see the railroad industry.”

Camila Pereira, civil engineering student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said it was nice to be able to apply what she studied in class to a real rail yard, “When I saw the operations first hand, I knew I wanted to be a part of this industry.”

And that’s exactly what White and others at Union Pacific hoped the field day would do: Spark an interest in a career in the railroad industry, specifically in the company’s Operations Management Training (OMT) Program, a first-line field management opportunity with significant growth potential.

“On top of the hands-on experience, students were able to see the men and women that they could someday manage on a day-to-day basis as part of the OMT program,” White said. “This gives students a vision of what works and what doesn’t as management. They were able to see the pride our field employees have in their job and realize this is a really cool career.”

Interested in a career with Union Pacific? Visit https://up.jobs to view current openings.