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Full steam ahead! Engineers gear up for railway competition

20 February 2018

A competition run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers requires teams of up-and-coming engineers to build, design and run a locomotive.

Eleven student and apprentice teams from the UK, Germany and Egypt are preparing to take part in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway Challenge in Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire in June.

The competition, which was launched in 2012, requires participants to design and manufacture a miniature, 10 1/4” gauge, railway locomotive in accordance with a number of precise rules.

The students’ locomotives are then tested at the competition weekend, on 28 June - 1 July 2018, in a series of track based and presentation challenges. These challenges include a design report and business presentation, as well as track-based challenges on the locomotive’s traction, ride comfort, noise, maintainability and ability to store energy.

Last year’s winners, SNC Lavalin and Transit, will be defending their title.

Professor Simon Iwnicki, Chairman of Railway Challenge, said:

“The Institution’s Railway Challenge is not simply a locomotive building contest, but a competition that centres on emerging technology and is specifically focused on the application of innovation to key issues such as efficiency and energy recovery. The railway industry is entering a period of rapid changes due to the global demand for producing efficient high speed transport systems, taking freight onto rail and off road, and driving down carbon emissions from transport. These challenges must be met by the next generation of railway engineers and the Railway Challenge is providing teams of young engineers with experience of designing and manufacturing a prototype vehicle to meet these demands.”
Luke Foy, a past Team Leader of the Transport for London team, said of the competition:

“Taking part in the competition helped the whole team gain a first had experience of the whole process of developing a locomotive. It allowed us to produce a design from a blank sheet of paper and construct an entire vehicle from scratch, both of which are hard to get at graduate and apprentice level. It put us in control of our own finances and time management, expanding our experience beyond what regular engineering placements can provide. The only deadline was the competition day; it was down to us to manage the whole project throughout the year.

“The experience gained working on the project was invaluable. Not only did it align perfectly to the UK-SPEC to help towards my Chartership, but it also allowed everyone to get involved in many areas they may not of had the opportunity to in their day to day roles. In addition to vast increase in technical knowledge, the larger benefit to me was the soft skills the project provides: leading people, collaborating with a team of peers, meeting personal deadlines, reporting to Directors and corresponding with external media, all of which has made me a more rounded and confident engineer. 

“I would thoroughly recommend the Railway Challenge to every engineer not only for the benefits it provides but also because it was one of the most enjoyable experiences throughout my graduate years!” 


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