Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Leifur T. Leifsson


Railroad companies in the United States spent about $6.6 billion on diesel to move

freight in 2015. One way to save money and reduce fuel consumption is to reduce

the drag on the train. With the length of trains in the United States the drag due

to the gaps between cars in the train is substantial. To reduce the drag between cars

the intermodal well car was investigated. These cars carry intermodal containers often

stacked two high. There were 12.2 million intermodal containers shipped in 2015, making

the intermodal well car one of the most common cars in use. To avoid the need for

major structural changes to the intermodal container wishbone vortex generators were

investigated. Using steady Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes simulations the flow field

around a train consisting of a scaled and simplified locomotive and two intermodal cars

was investigated. Sub-boundary layer vortex generators were then added to this model

in two configurations. The first configuration added vortex generators to the rear of the

intermodal cars, whereas the second configuration added vortex generators to both the

front and rear of the intermodal cars. The vortex generators were sized according to two

different boundary layer heights. The first height was found using flat plate turbulent

boundary layer theory. The second used the boundary layer developed at the end of the

first intermodal car. The addition of the smaller vortex generator showed a 2% drag

reduction. While this reduction is close to the minimum accuracy of the simulation, the

change in the drag on each car shows that further study is necessary to truly evaluate

these devices. The larger vortex generators on the other hand show a 12% increase in

the drag of the train.


Copyright Owner

Alexander Montgomery Peters



File Format


File Size

71 pages