Winter Speaker Series


Date: March 28th, 2024

Time: 6-7:30pm

Location: Roundhouse Visitor’s Center

Presenter: Christopher Schulte

Topic: Rail: Early History, Modern Design, Manufacturing, and Application

Short Bio:

In 1974, Christopher Schulte began his railroad career as a track laborer in eastern Pennsylvania. By 1976, he joined Conrail, advancing to track foreman positions. He moved to SEPTA in 1978. He started as a track foreman and became a general track supervisor in 1983. In 1985, Chris assumed the role of SEPTA’s maintenance-of-way technical training instructor.

In 1991, Chris worked for the Delaware Department of Transportation as manager of rail operations. His journey with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) commenced in 1994 when he took on the role of a track safety inspector in the New England region. During this time, Chris dedicated two years to overseeing the safety aspects of the Northeast Corridor Electrification Project connecting New Haven, Connecticut, to Boston, Massachusetts. His contributions to this project earned him the prestigious FRA Inspector of the Year Award.

FRA promoted Chris to Safety Specialist at their Washington, DC Headquarters in 1998. He managed regulations, compliance manuals, and light rail transit shared use waivers. In 2006, Chris returned to Philadelphia, where he managed FRA’s Region 2 track inspection program until retiring in 2018.

Chris learned about rail history by working on transit, commuter, freight, and high-speed track. In retirement, he still studies his many books about building railways.

Presentation Title:

Rail: Early History, Modern Design, Manufacturing, and Application


Early History

This section reviews the early types of rails from wood beams to iron strap rails. Railroads changed from iron straps to different types of cast iron rails to prevent accidents.

Modern Design

Enjoy an explanation of the function of the various parts of the “T” rail. Also, learn about how the shape of the rails aligns with the various rail “section designs.” Besides the “T” section, learn about other rails such as crane, girder, and contact rails.


Manufacturers make railroad rail to keep railways safe and strong. Discover how they make and transform steel into rails. Learn about the encoded information on the “brand” and “stamp” side of the rail web. Hear about the various pedigrees of rails, from heat-treated to alloy rails. Find out about the mysterious reason for the standard 39-foot-long rail.


See how the mechanics of bolted rail differ from continuous welded strands. Also, we will explore the various types of rail joints and their uses. Finally, enjoy a review of the various methods that extend rail life.

Available Dates