University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Interdisciplinary Professional Programs

Fundamentals of Railroad Bridge Inspection See upcoming dates

Course Overview

In this course you will learn about the inspector’s responsibilities, compliance with regulations (FRA 214 and FRA 237), training requirements, and the different types of inspections (with the focus being on periodic inspections). Timber, steel, concrete, moveable bridges and culverts will be covered.

NOTE: You can attend this course in-person in Madison or attend and participate on-line.  The on-line attendees will join in for the first two days of the course. The in-person course attendance includes a field trip on the third day (morning only) to three rail bridge structures for hands-on inspection training.

Who Should Attend?

  • Bridge engineers, inspectors, and supervisors
  • Railroad engineers, managers, and supervisors
  • Railroads, consultants, contractors, and agencies

Additional Information

Course Outline


  • Purpose of class
  • Safety
  • Railroad employees vs. consultants/contractors

Inspector’s Responsibilities

  • Removing a bridge from service
  • FRA 214, 213/237
  • Training requirements
  • Written reports
  • Know your abilities
  • Know your limits
  • Techniques, Tools and Equipment

Types of Inspections

  • Periodic
  • Detailed
  • Emergency
  • Inspections under load

Prior to Beginning the Inspection

  • Obtaining railroads bridge inventory
  • Obtaining previous inspection records
  • Ranking system
  • Operating practices
  • Equipment
  • Planning
  • Creating a schedule

Inspection Process

  • Site overview
  • Tools and equipment
  • Walk-throughs
  • Photographic documentation
  • Note taking
  • Identifying components
  • Measurements

Timber Bridges

  • Nomenclature
  • Backwalls/wingwalls
  • Pilings, frames, caps, etc.
  • Ballast decks
  • Open decks

Concrete Bridges

  • Nomenclature
  • Stone/masonry substructures
  • Backwalls/wingwalls
  • Abutments, piers, pilings, caps
  • Tubs, box girders, deck slabs, arches

Steel Bridges

  • Nomenclature
  • Stone/masonry substructures
  • Backwalls/wingwalls
  • H-piling and pipe piling
  • Towers, column piers, caps, bracing
  • Beam spans
  • Deck plate girders, through plate girders
  • Through truss spans

Moveable Bridges

  • Nomenclature
  • Swing, lift, and bascule spans
  • Mechanical & electrical systems


  • Nomenclature
  • Concrete, corrugated metal, smooth pipe, wood box, stone

Field Trip to Bridges for Hands-On Exercise (*This activity will NOT be available in the online version of the course.)

Report Writing

  • Cover letter
  • Conditions sheet
  • Content and format
  • Deck section, substructure section, superstructure section

Summary of recommendations


Kevin Halpin

Kevin Halpin, PE has 39 years of railroad engineering experience, primarily in railroad bridges. His experience is primarily with Class I railroads, but also has worked for public passenger railroads, railroad bridge contractors and railroad engineering consultants. He has managed bridges in a territory comprising Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and northern Illinois for CN Railroad. Currently Mr. Halpin is an industry consultant providing construction management services along with Railroad Bridge Engineer (RBE) services for the shortline industry.

Peter Schierloh

Peter Schierloh, PE, has worked with railroad bridges for over twenty years and currently is a design Project Engineer with SW Bridge Engineers, LLC based in DeForest, Wisconsin, a position he has held since the company was formed in 2007. As a Project Engineer he has been involved in the inspection, design, and rating of railroad bridges throughout the United States. Prior to the formation of SW Bridge Engineers, Peter worked for SW's parent company, E80 Plus Constructors, LLC, as a construction Project Engineer responsible for the management of railroad bridge construction projects. Peter graduated Michigan Technological University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is a registered professional engineer is several states and is currently an active member of AREMA Committee 10.

Dave Peterson

Dave is the Program Director for the University of WisconsinMadison Railroad Engineering and Operations Program. The program consists of 12 courses conducted annually on topics ranging from introduction to railroad engineering and operations to signaling, bridges, crossings, and traction power. He is also the Department Administrator for Interdisciplinary Professional Programs. Dave has a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering and an MBA from UWMadison.

Take this course when it’s offered next!

Past dates