Rail Vehicle Engineering 101

Learn the basics of rail vehicle engineering, for a career in rail or as a hobbyist.
Free tutorial
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (733 ratings)
10,520 students
1hr 24min of on-demand video
English [Auto]

You will be able to classify rail vehicles and to know their fundamental differences to road vehicles. This will help you to formulate requirements.
You will know the structural elements of rail vehicles, so you can discuss technical features confidently.
The knowledge of longitudinal and lateral dynamics will provide you with important basics to perform your own calculations.
You will learn the basics of manufacturing rail vehicles, which will help you to understand the processes of rail vehicles.


  • Basic Knowledge in Mathematics and Geometry is recommended.
  • Basic Knowledge in Mechanical Engineering will be helpful.


The rail industry is thriving worldwide and offers plenty of interesting jobs. The design and manufacturing of rail vehicles is different from other engineering tasks in several aspects. This course will introduce you to the most important differences in order to prepare you for a potential career in rail.

Learn the basics of rail vehicle engineering to work in sustainable transportation:

  • Learn to classify rail vehicles according to operation or vehicle type
  • Get to know the main differences between road and rail transport
  • Identify structural elements of rail vehicles and their requirements
  • Understand longitudinal and lateral dynamics of rail vehicles, including hunting movement and wheel rail contact
  • Find out how rail vehicles are manufactured

This course will help you find out why rail vehicles are designed as they are and how this links to operational requirements.

The course was developed based on introductory lectures held at Aachen university of applied sciences as part of the course on economics and technology of railways (in German). It provides you with a primer that helps you to acquire jobs in the booming and future oriented railway industry.

While there are several textbooks on the subject, I don't know of any online course to give you quick access. Even if you wish to use a textbook, this course will help you to enter the subject.

Who this course is for:

  • The course is considered for anybody interested in finding out more about rail vehicle design and the technical details behind them. It will also help people who aim to change their careers towards rail to feel confident with their knowledge. Obviously, this course cannot cater for experienced professionals and senior students, however their feedback is appreciated!


Professor of Rail Vehicle Engineering
Raphael Pfaff
  • 4.5 Instructor Rating
  • 733 Reviews
  • 10,520 Students
  • 1 Course

Raphael studied Mathematics, Mechatronics and Control Engineering in Bochum, Hagen and Coventry, where he gained his PhD in 2013. He worked as a System Engineer for Siemens and Faiveley Transport, on projects  including Vectron Locomotive and the new high speed train ICE 4. As Manager Product Engineering, he was responsible for the development of coupler systems before receiving the call upon a  professorship for Rail Vehicle Engineering at Aachen University of  Applied Sciences in 2014. 

Research interests include digitisation of rail vehicles, reliability modelling and additive manufacturing.

Besides research and teaching, he employs his skills as assessor for rail vehicles and consultant.

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