Article Source: IMechE

Railway Challenge
Railway Challenge

The 8th annual Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway Challenge competition has launched!

Ever since its inception, the Challenge has grown and continued to attract and support aspiring young engineers. The challenge of working in a cross disciplinary team, to tight deadlines, in order to address several technical and business challenges whilst creating a running locomotive has proven to be a project that engages some of the most brilliant minds in the making. Universities and corporates fielding teams gain access to an off-the-shelf project that easily addresses a number of key outcomes in context of the academic curriculum and in terms of employability.

Who is it for?

The Railway Challenge brings together teams of undergraduates, industry apprentices and young professionals from UK and overseas to develop and showcase their skills, expertise, and knowledge.

What does the Challenge involve?

Working together in a team, participants gain real-life experience of the entire cycle of designing and manufacturing a miniature locomotive supported by academic and industry experts who volunteer as officials of the Challenge. The Railway Challenge develops business and technical skills in the participants that industries would like to see in potential recruits. The Challenge also offers an opportunity to practice key soft skills such as team-working, time management, project management, budgeting and presentation skills, becoming better equipped for a lasting career in engineering.

Teams are to assume that they work for a design consultancy which is briefed to produce a design proposal and a prototype for a small locomotive for a large corporation. Teams will need to design and manufacture the prototype of this locomotive and then test it against others.

Scrutineering and judging standards will be higher than ever to ensure participants are tested to their full potential.

In 2019, we will see a new track based challenge introduced; the auto–stop function where participating teams will have to design their train to stop as close as possible to a marked point on the track. Teams will also be required to design a technical poster to challenge participants to communicate effectively how the principal systems of their locomotive work.

“The IMechE Railway Challenge is now an established fixture in the railway industry calendar as well as in universities where railway engineering is taught. More and more students and young engineers are participating in the competition and are gaining knowledge and understanding of the challenges of designing and building a railway locomotive to compete with the best of their peers. Through the competition they are also introduced to the exciting world of railway engineering and the opportunities that a career in railways leads to.

The railway industry needs to attract the most talented engineers to help address the challenges it faces and the Railway Challenge is definitely helping to do this.” Professor Simon Iwnicki, Railway Challenge Chair

Ricardo Rail, first time entrant, were crowned the Grand Champion of the Railway Challenge 2018. Martin Elliott, Team Supervisor, Ricardo Rail explained,

“For anyone considering taking part in the Railway Challenge, I highly recommend that they seize the opportunity to learn and develop. As a member of Ricardo Rail’s 2018 team, I gained valuable experience and was inspired by working in an environment where fundamental design decisions were made by those with fresh ideas and limited experience. The design, manufacture, test and compete elements each require a different approach which adds variety and really challenges project teams.“ Ben Morley, Team Leader Ricardo Rail

“As a Team Supervisor I would recommend the Railway Challenge to any organisation employing or working with young railway engineers. It offers the unique chance for them to experience the complete project lifecycle from design, build, testing through to operation and maintenance of a railway vehicle. It also helps build their knowledge of rail vehicle systems including traction, suspension, structures, braking and control.”

The Railway Challenge continues to attract interest from past participants to engage with the competition either as part of the volunteering committee or as a sponsor.

David Westcough, Professional Networking & Development Manager at Young Rail Professional and a past -participant said

“The IMechE Railway Challenge is not only an opportunity for young engineers to gain practical experience in a multi-disciplinary engineering project, but also one to innovate and experiment with technologies new to the rail industry.

In addition, the competition enables sponsors to showcase themselves to the next generation of railway talent and raise awareness of their role within the industry. My experience of the Railway Challenge, both as a competitor and a sponsor, has enabled me to join teams engaged in exciting railway projects, as well as raise my profile within the industry and the institution.“

As part of the commitment to inspire the next generation of engineers, the Railway Challenge expects to host a STEM Day at the competition weekend. Local schools will be invited to take part in STEM related activities run by a dedicated group of STEM Ambassadors.

Where and when does it take place?

The Railway Challenge takes place at the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire from 27 June to 30 June 2019.

Find out more: to volunteer, sponsor or participate in the competition visit:

Without the backing and valued support of Industry partners such as RSSB, Network Rail, Young Rail Professionals, Angel Trains, Porterbrook Leasing, Eversholt Rail and Beacon Rail the Challenge in 2018 would not have been a possibility and likewise there is once more a new opportunity for further industry support for the Challenge. To find out how you can support the next generation of young rail engineers within a fantastic framework and build engagement with schools through to young professionals, contact the project team at


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