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Railroad Surveys, Profiles and Topographic Surveys

Harvey A. Crouch, PE

Course Outline

This two-hour course discusses the key elements of railroad surveys, including profiles, cross-sections, and topographic surveys. Railroad surveying terms and practices are very unique compared with surveys for highways and other utilities. When performing survey or design work that impacts or includes railroads, it is important to have an understanding of the basic railroad survey criteria and terms so that ideas and designs can be properly communicated. This course will enable the designer to communicate effectively when submitting surveys or plans for review by a railroad or regulatory agency involved in crossing permits, or new construction.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

Course Introduction

Railway engineering and surveying evolved separately from highway surveying. The basic difference between highway and railroad layout is the manner by which railroad curves are defined. While highway curves are defined by the ARC method, Railroad curves are defined by the Chord Method. The Chord Method was implemented because of its ease of use in laying out curves in the field, using a 100'chord.

Because the railroad system grew separate from the highway system into a national system of railroads with common standards, the railroad industry developed its own terminology and methodology for engineering design and surveying. In the past, many of the nations best railway engineers started their careers as surveyors.

Course Content

The the course content is in a PDF file Railroad Surveys, Profiles and Topographic Surveys. You need to open or download this document to study this course.

Course Summary

Railroad surveying requires an understanding of the terminology that is unique to railroads and the design goals of the project, and knowledge of railroad operating and safety practices.

Engineers should be aware of the safety considerations, railroad rules, and types of surveys required based on specific design data required so that surveys can be set up for projects to be safe, efficient, and complete.

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please visit the following website:


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.