Fundamentals of Traction Power Systems and Overhead Contact Systems

Upcoming dates (1)

Oct. 22-24, 2024

Madison, WI or Live Online

Course Overview

Upon completion of this course, you will understand:

  • Applicable design and equipment standards, guide documents and other valuable technical reference materials, and where to locate them.
  • The fundamentals of traction power substation, distribution system and overhead contact system design, construction and operation
  • Traction power load flow simulation methods, input requirements and available software for AC and DC traction power systems
  • Traction power wayside energy storage systems, substation grounding and substation automation/control

Who Should Attend?

This course introduces many of the fundamentals of rail traction power and overhead contact systems. If you work in this area or need to understand the concepts related to electrically-powered rail systems, this is the course for you. Although this is a "fundamentals" course, it will be most beneficial to attendees who have at least a limited knowledge of the topics of electrical traction power.

Course Outline

Introduction to Electrified Transportation Systems

  • Modes (Passenger, commuter, heavy & light rail, tram/trolley)
  • Traction power system types (alternating & direct current, OCS, contact rail)
  • Traction power system components
  • Traction electrification system design resources

Overhead Contact System Design

  • Project approach
  • Design criteria
  • Current collectors
  • System selection
  • Protection and control

Overhead Contact Systems Construction

  • Foundations
  • Support structures
  • Overhead contact system supports
  • Messenger and contact wires
  • In-span materials


  • Foundations
  • Ductbanks
  • Building

Overhead Contact System Operation

  • Dynamics
  • Various systems
  • Sectioning
  • High speed rail

Overhead Contact System Maintenance

  • Inspection items
  • Periods

Substation Maintenance

  • Inspection Items
  • Periods

Overhead Contact System Other Topics

  • Maintenance building
  • Substation
  • Current collectors
  • Running rail
  • Signal system
  • Planning and what gets built
  • Project savings

DC Traction Power Substation Design

  • Introduction
  • Substation types and configurations
  • Rectifier transformers
  • Rectifiers/converters
  • AC and DC switchgear
  • Protection and control
  • Utility interface

Load Flow Simulation

  • Methods
  • Vehicle modeling
  • Corridor modeling
  • Conductor modeling
  • Rectifier modeling
  • Rail Potential Modeling

DC Traction Power System Grounding

  • Equipment and system grounding
  • Rail potential
  • Negative grounding devices
  • Stray current

AC Traction Power System Design

  • System types
  • Substation types
  • Sectionalizing
  • Utility interconnection requirements
  • Switchgear
  • Protection and control
  • System and equipment grounding

DC Traction Power Distribution System Design

  • Wire and cable current-carrying capacity
  • Traction power cable systems
  • Contact rail systems
  • Raceway systems

Selected Topics in Traction Power System Design

  • Substation Automation
  • Wayside Energy Storage


Moises Ramos

Moises Ramos, PE, is the OCS Section Manager and National Practice Lead for HDR in Denver, CO. With over 17 years of specialized experience in design, construction, inspection, testing and commissioning of electrification projects Moises brings his unique expertise on overhead contact systems and traction power systems to his clients. He has provided system’s engineering services for RTD-Denver, Amtrak, Long Island Railroad, SEPTA, MBTA, LA Metro and DART. He is also experienced in construction estimating, complex construction staging and constructability logistics.

R Stell

Benjamin Stell has 38 years of experience in the planning, design, and construction of railway electrical systems throughout the United States and Canada. His extensive systems planning experience has been complemented by numerous electrified railway design projects performed for Amtrak and diverse rail transportation authorities. These projects have included the design of indoor and outdoor traction power substations and power distribution for alternating current electrified passenger and commuter rail, and for direct current powered heavy and light rail, electric trolleybus, and automated people mover (APM) systems.  Mr. Stell is the current Chair of the IEEE Vehicular Transportation Society’s Traction Power Systems Standards Committee which is developing standards and guide documents for traction power system equipment, design, and operation.  He is a registered Professional Engineer in 13 states and currently works for STV in the Philadelphia PA area as a Senior Traction Power Engineer.

Carl B. Wessel

Mr. Wessel is a traction power designer with a civil engineering background and more than 30 years of experience in both engineering, and owner/operator managerial roles in the areas of traction power (TPS) and overhead catenary systems (OCS) design, construction, operations, and maintenance. He has experience working with, and for, public agencies, including Charlotte Area Transportation System (CATS), Metro Transit-Minnesota, Bi-State Development Agency-Missouri, and New Jersey Transit, as well as other various agencies in relation to specific design and construction projects. He has retired from full-time work and continues to do some private consulting, lecturing, and participating in IEEE Standards development.

He is a volunteer at the National Museum of Transportation at St. Louis, and is in charge of overseeing the Inspection, Operation, Maintenance, and Restoration of the museum's fleet of operational trolley and streetcars. He has developed inspection sheets for each particular car for their yearly inspection prior to operation. He is also the primary instructor on the Philadelphia PCC streetcar, and certifies the operators each year for members who want to operate the car. He also helps in any trackwork and Overhead Trolley Wire work as required. Lastly, he has been involved in the preparation of contract documents for contractors to perform track work and future OCS projects on the museum's grounds. 

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.

Upcoming dates (1)

Program Director

Dave Peterson

Contact Us

Create a custom learning experience

We can deliver this course as an on-site learning experience tailored to your organization’s specific training needs.