Fundamentals of Traction Power Systems and Overhead Contact Systems

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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 a Senior Electrification Engineer with HDR in Denver, CO. With over 15 years of specialized experience in design, construction, inspection, testing and commissioning of electrified railroads 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 experienced in construction estimating, complex construction staging and constructability logistics.

Benjamin Stell

Benjamin (Ralph) Stell, PE, has 30 years of experience in the planning, design, and construction of railway electrical systems throughout the United States. His extensive systems planning experience has been complemented by numerous electrified railway design projects performed for Amtrak and diverse rail transportation authorities. Projects include the design of indoor and outdoor traction power substations and power distribution for AC electrified passenger and commuter rail, and DC powered heavy and light rail, electric trolleybus, and automated people mover (APM) systems. Stell is active in IEEE and AREMA electric traction technical committee work, developing standards and guide documents for traction power system equipment design and operation. He currently is an Associate, Senior Engineer, Traction Power with STV Inc. in Philadelphia.

Carl 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.

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.

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Program Director

Dave Peterson

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