Centre for Railway Engineering

Railway engineering building.JPG
The Centre for Railway Engineering (CRE) is an industry-focused research centre hosted by the School of Engineering and Technology (SET) at CQUniversity located in Rockhampton.

CRE has a strong customer focus and endeavours to build robust partnerships between its researchers and the rail industry through high quality generic and commercial research, postgraduate education, innovation, development, and consultancy services. 

We are well known for our research expertise in train dynamics, wagon and bogie dynamics, vehicle/track system dynamics, locomotive traction, simulation, energy studies, instrumentation, product development and experimental testing. Our physical resources include a unique laboratory that was purpose designed for full-scale testing of coupler systems, bogies, wagons, locomotives, wheel-rail materials, and civil infrastructure components. We also have access to a supercomputer facility with more than 1,000 computer cores. These capabilities allow CRE to offer commercial research, theoretical fundamental and applied research, and consulting expertise in the key areas of: 

  • train and vehicle dynamics
  • vehicle-track interactions
  • energy analysis
  • decarbonisation
  • locomotive traction
  • simulation
  • friction and wear
  • rail infrastructure
  • smart sensors
  • product design and development
  • wheel-rail contact
  • high performance computing
  • experimental testing
  • wheel-rail material performance analysis
  • field and laboratory friction studies

Partners and external relationships

CRE has been a major supplier of research expertise to the national Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Programs for the past 20 years.

The Centre is also engaged in product development for the Australian rail manufacturing sector and has established a record of original patented research in relation to this. The CRE works with industry partners either in direct collaboration or as one partner in a collaborative team.

The Centre has provided commercial research and consulting services to both national and international rail organisations including AECOM, Aurizon, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), BHP, Arc Infrastructure, Bradken, Bowen Rail Company, Calibre Global, Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India, Deloitte India, Fortescue Metals Group, Pacific National, Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB), Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO - Indian Railways), Qube, Rio Tinto, the Qld Government and Vline.

RHD opportunities

The CRE provides applied engineering research for the rail industry in areas of mechanical, civil and electrical engineering along with specific collaborations concerning safety and human factors. Our Centre’s research strength in mechanical engineering, facilitating the continuation of both high-quality publications and provision of applied capabilities to the railway industry.

Get involved in our research 

The CRE provides applied and fundamental engineering research for the rail industry in areas of mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering along with specific collaborations concerning safety and human factors. 

Our Centre’s research strength in mechanical engineering, facilitating the continuation of both high-quality publications and provision of applied capabilities to the railway industry. 

Our strong research in areas of fatigue and wear simulation is key to involvements in product development for the Australian rail manufacturing sector. The addition of electrical engineering and electronics expertise to the Centre membership re-establishes opportunities in condition monitoring and Intelligent Transport Systems.  

CRE’s strengths also have an emphasis on product development in collaboration with rail manufacturers, which has seen the expanding of the stakeholder group and also the broadening of the areas of engineering synergy, improving both sustainability of the Centre and appealing to a wider group of engineering academics in the School of Engineering and Technology and beyond. 

Research Higher Degree students 

CRE is proud to host and provide research higher degree training for postgraduate students. CRE, due to its industry environment, provides a multidisciplinary context for students and excellent opportunities to network with industry partners and rail researchers. 


Scholarships are called at least once a year for the general CQUniversity merit rounds. In addition, projects are approved from time to time, which allows stipend support to students who are willing to study on specific railway research problems. Further information is available on our Research Scholarships page. 

CRE has expertise in: 

  • train, locomotive, and wagon dynamics 
  • train control and brake systems 
  • vehicle-track interaction 
  • train traction 
  • transport energy issues  
  • intelligent transport systems 
  • mathematical modelling and simulation 
  • driver advisory systems 
  • condition monitoring 
  • acoustics and noise engineering 
  • contact mechanics and tribology 
  • smart devices and software development 

Current Projects 

Our research projects include: 

  • curve lubrication
  • vehicle-track interaction
  • heavy haul drawgear
  • future train motive power technologies
  • rail grinding best practices
  • locomotive adhesion
  • wagon roadworthiness simulation
  • train route operational studies (Feasibility, Safety and Energy)
  • longitudinal passenger comfort
  • development of new condition monitoring technologies

Past Projects 

Previous research projects included: 

  • intelligent train monitoring
  • train health advisory system
  • innovations for insulated rail joints
  • rail squat management strategies
  • evaluation short pitch rail irregularities
  • track sustainability management
  • cant deficiency studies
  • rail temperature and track stability monitoring
  • assessment of bogie rotation resistance
  • simulation of rollingstock crashworthiness
  • derailment simulations

CRE has been a major supplier of research expertise to all three past rail the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Programs in the period 2000 to 2020. In addition, CRE has completed directly funded projects commercial research and/or consulting projects for (alphabetically): 

  • Aecom 
  • Arc Infrastructure  
  • Aurecon 
  • Aurizon 
  • Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) 
  • Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation 
  • BHP 
  • Bradken 
  • Bowen Rail Company 
  • Calibre Global 
  • Deloitte (India)  
  • Faiveley Transport 
  • Fortescue Metals 
  • Hatch (Canada) 
  • Hall Industries(USA) 
  • National Transport Research Organisation 
  • Pacific National 
  • Qube 
  • Qld Department of Transport and Regional Services 
  • Queensland Rail 
  • Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board (RISSB) 
  • Rail Innovation Australia 
  • Research Designs and Standards Organisation (Indian Railways) 
  • Rio Tinto  
  • Strato Inc. (USA) 
  • Queensland Government 
  • Vline 

Instrumentation and Intelligent Systems 

Real-time information on the health condition and performance of assets and infrastructure is key to improving and maintaining performance in modern railway systems.  The Centre for Railway Engineering (CRE) and its partner company Insyte Solutions have extensive experience in design and manufacture of custom instrumentation solutions for railway systems. We have the capacity to integrate innovative condition monitoring technologies to leverage advanced predictive maintenance techniques, safety, and artificial intelligence systems. By implementing bespoke on-train and wayside hardware and software, it is possible to obtain unprecedented insights on the health of vehicles and infrastructure, to better manage assets and operations. Examples of previously completed instrumentation systems include: 

  • Self-powered field data acquisition devices: strain, temperature, IR, IMU, among others.
  • Wireless radio systems
  • Wave Form Analysis – Data to Information software
  • Communication Interoperability & System Integration
  • Advanced uses of LIDAR
  • Kinematic Measurement and analysis systems (sub-millimetre movement detection)
  • Ultra-low power and physically compact devices.

Heavy Testing Laboratory 

CRE operates a purpose-built Heavy Testing Laboratory designed and built primarily from ARC infrastructure grant (1995 and 1996) funds. The laboratory was designed to allow maximum flexibility in testing and simulating large structures and vehicles. The facility was initially designed to accommodate fully loaded wagons, rollingstock and bridge girders. Testing capabilities include vehicle suspension evaluation, instrumentation development, proof tests, two-axis tests and component characterisation tests for mathematically modelling. 

Capabilities of Existing Heavy Equipment 

  • Strong floor area 8m x 24m and portal frames that can support or react loads of up to 2,000kN and 500kN lateral load
  • Full scale tests up to 5 Hz continuous cycling depending on application
  • Steady load failure and proof testing up to 4400 kN
  • Fatigue testing of mechanical and civil components up to 3000kN
  • 350 kW Hydraulic Power Pack (up to 330bar)
  • Configurable software and servo cylinder systems for customised load profiles
  • Twin-disc tribology machine for characterisation of wear, rolling contact fatigue and friction characteristics of railway materials
  • Portable hand-operated tribometer for friction mapping in the field

General Testing Capabilities 

  • Custom built test rigs for full scale tests
  • Load or displacement control
  • Job-specific load application designs
  • Crack identification using Magnetic Particle Imaging
  • Crack measurement using RepliSet®
  • Multiple Channel Displacement and Strain Data Acquisition
  • Wheel-Rail Interface Friction measurement
  • Wheel profile measurement
  • Rail Profile Measurement

Specific Current Research Rigs 

  • Heavy Haul Draft Gear Testing Machine

The machine emulates field conditions for draft gears and allow proof tests and draft gear characterisation tests. The design process allowed for expected forces from heavy haul train operations and included provision for hardware-in-the-loop investigations using train simulation software to provide inputs and test sequences. The rig has been made large enough to include a wagon stub sill and a coupler pair (or drawbar) so that all draft gear components (knuckle, coupler, yoke, draft gear and stub sill) can be evaluated simultaneously. 

  • Rail Joint Testing Machine

The machine allowing a load to be applied to a rail joint using a rail wheel emulating field conditions. The rig has been used for investigations into rail joint design, modifications, and the development of rail instrumentation. 

Contact and connect

Centre for Railway Engineering 

Building 70, CQUniversity 

Rockhampton QLD 4702 

Prof Colin Cole (Centre Director) 

Phone: +61 (0)7 4930 9769 

Email: c.cole@cqu.edu.au 

Prof Maksym Spiryagin 

Phone: +61 (0)7 4930 9677 

Email: m.spiryagin@cqu.edu.au 


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CRE Staff

CRE members include academics, researchers, technicians, and software development staff with expertise in railway engineering, rollingstock engineering, railway maintenance, train/wagon and traction dynamics, simulation, instrumentation, intelligent devices, and software. Working at CRE offers an ideal opportunity to develop your research career in an environment of wide collaboration with other researchers and the rail industry. 

Details of individual members and associate members are available via the following links: