A Look Inside the Transportation Test Center

Northeast of Pueblo lies some of the least-seen railroad equipment in the United States. The Transportation Technology Center has served as a field test site for railroad technologies since its founding as part of the Federal Railroad Administration in the late 1960s. Faced with a lack of funding and possible shutdown, the FRA entered a partnership with American Association of Railroads to take over the facility after 1982. Then in 1998, that agreement was again modified to have TTCI operate the facility under contract for both parties. The facility consists of a number of large labs as well as a handful of outdoor test tracks, and is used to test all manner of railway technology for clients, including the FRA, EMD and GE, railcar and track material manufacturers, the US railroads themselves, and even railroad shippers. Whether it’s above or below the wheels, they stress it, measure it, analyze it, and yes, even crash it to find new ways to make railroad transport safer and more cost effective.

The TTC is normally off limits to the general public and a fairly strict “no photography” zone (made possible by its remote location and large amount of surrounding private and government property), and much of the equipment inside never leaves the grounds. Thus, it’s uncommon, to say the least, to see any railroad enthusiast photos of their equipment. On Saturday, 19-Apr-2008, an extremely rare opportunity came up – TTCI and the AAR were holding an open house to celebrate 25 years of AAR ownership and 10 years of the TTCI contract. The festivities would be open to friends and family of employees. Fortunately, one of the civil engineers – Duane Otter – offered a number of us from the local monthly slide show group the opportunity to attend as his guests. A huge thanks to Duane, as well as to the TTCI and AAR folks, for a great day out and a look at things most people rarely see, and almost never get to photograph.

So, what follows is a small glimpse the TTC. None of the exhibits that day really delved into any current research, as it was intended as a family-and-friends day than an engineering conference, but there was still a good number of interesting items on display. The biggest thing was that all of the EMD gear – including the SDP40F test beds and the rare SD60MACs – were kept far away from the accessible areas. The last open house was five years ago, and there likely won’t be another for at least five more years, so enjoy these shots – it’ll be a while before there are any more.

For more information about TTCI and the facility, see their website.


Most photographs in this trip report were taken with a Canon EOS 40D using either a Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS/USM, Sigma 18-50mm, or a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS/USM. A small number were taken with a Canon SX100 IS.

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