Railway Challenge


Railway Challenge - Your questions answered

FAQs 2018

Challenge course: Information to aid the design process

Would you be able to facilitate us with some information about the course to aid
in our design process? Do you have a measure of the roughness of the track?

No, we do not have this information. If you would like to measure the track irregularity
or the rail roughness please contact us and we will try to make arrangements for you to
have access to the railway to make the measurement. Please note that you would need
to supply any required equipment and provide a method statement in advance.

Team: How many members in the team?

How many team members can a team have?

Answer: The overall team size is capped at 15. During the event the number of team members working on a locomotive at any given time cannot exceed 10.

The team member in charge of safety as required by the rules is included in the 15 team members, but not in the 10 working on the locomotive, as they are to be responsible for ensuring safe working.

Team: Sign off on testing

A Chartered Engineer is required to sign off on the testing done by the team. Can this person be a member of staff from the university?

Answer:  Yes, the Chartered Engineer can be from your own organisation.

Technical specifications/rules: Drawings - what drawings are required?

Clause 11.2.2 appears to say that we only need the top level assembly and warning label  arrangement, but 1.1.5 suggests that we need a lot more detail than the single assembly drawing can provide. The 2017 team interpreted that Improving the world through engineering to mean just the top level assembly then the next level ones, i.e. body, underframe and bogie, but the 2016 team also included many of their fabrication drawings, such as the bogie frame, control arm, traction rod etc. Can you please clarify further what drawings are required – is a top level assembly sufficient?


Please note the following Technical Specification clauses, revised so as to provide clarification on this issue:

11.2.1 Compliance matrix
The Team will produce a compliance matrix providing evidence that all technical requirements within this specification (Sections 1 – 10) have been met on a clause by clause basis. This will include a verified statement with respect to reliability testing (Clause 3.4 refers). Teams are advised to use the compliance matrix provided by the Railway Challenge Committee for this purpose. For each requirement, the matrix should briefly state how compliance is achieved in the design and refer to any relevant drawings (Clause 1.1.5 refers) which may be additional to the Design Report. If full compliance with any requirement is not achieved, details of why shall be provided.

11.2.2 Assembly drawing
In addition to drawings supporting the compliance matrix, the Team will include within its submission:
• A general assembly drawing showing the configuration of the locomotive
• A parts list / bill of materials (Clauses 1.1.1, 4.2.1 refer)
The Team will demonstrate appropriate levels of version control has been applied to the production of all drawings and other design documents.

Technical specification/rules: Energy storage assets

Section 4.1 it says:

“if refuelling comprises the replacement of energy storage assets, no individual such asset shall have a mass greater than 25kg.”

Does that mean if our power system consisted of 6 batteries each weighing 12kg, that would be within the spec?

The type of motive power utilised will be entirely at the discretion of the team, subject to the other requirements of this specification.

This rule reflects the fact that in future real world applications, it is conceivable that independent vehicles (all modes) are refuelled by storage system replacement rather than re-filling (battery, hydrogen storage etc.). The details referred to in this text (25 kg) reflect manual handling consideration. The answer is therefore yes – provided batteries are replaced individually or in pairs (2 x 12 = 24), and that the whole operation takes less than 120 seconds.

Technical specification/rules: Using innovation in wheel design or not?

When sending a wheel drawing to a potential supplier for a quote, the supplier suggested the following to reduce the cost of manufacturing the wheel:

  • Removing the 3.3 mm boss completely, keeping the wheel a maximum of 31.7mm wide.
  • The FAQs state that innovation is welcome, as long as it is compliant with the rules/tech spec/drawing with supporting documentation.

The boss is a given dimension - how far does 'as required' go? This would appear to be part of the technical spec, and non-negotiable?


We encourage innovation but would point out that it is the team’s responsibility to ensure that their design is a) safe and b) meets all of the Railway Challenge rules and specifications. This will need to be demonstrated in their design report.

In response to the specific question about the wheel we would make the following points:

  • The total width of the wheel at track level is clearly defined by drawing RC04 as 31.7 mm (+5/-0) and this is an absolute requirement for compatibility with the track system. It appears that both of the above proposals would comply with this.
  • The boss at the wheelseat is shown with a dimension of ‘3.3 mm or as required’. This can therefore be varied to suit other aspects of the locomotive design.
  • The recess between the wheelseat and the tyre is clearly labelled as ‘optional’ so can be varied to suit other aspects of the locomotive design. There may be issues around manufacturing processes and/or fatigue but that is for the team to consider.

Technical specification/rules: Wheel and axle diameter

Is just the wheel diameter is defined as 38mm or the axle? We would like to design a stepped axle that has a diameter that meets the minimum requirements only at the wheel section.

Answer:  There is no minimum axle diameter specified. It is for the teams to design the axles to suit their overall design and to ensure safe operation. Teams are reminded of the obligation to provide stress calculations, which will be the subject of significant scrutiny in areas of non-continuous section.

Technical specification/rules: Recuperated energy

Are we allowed to store the recuperated energy into our traction batteries and monitor the amount of energy we regenerate to make it accessible to the judges?


Yes, this will be allowed as long as the following conditions are met:

  • The amount of energy recovered must be monitored and clearly displayed and continuously visible to the judges (in line with Rules sections B2.2 and B2.4);
  • There must be a method in place to ensure than only the recuperated energy is used during the energy storage challenge (in line with rule section B2.6 and Technical Specification section 5.2);
  • The methods used to store the energy must be clear and the team must be able to demonstrate these to the scrutineers.

Technical specifications/rules: Traction Challenge - how it conducted

How is the Traction Challenge carried out on the competition weekend? How is the Traction Challenge result averaged? If it’s over a certain distance, can you confirm the distance the measurement takes place?


The Traction Challenge will be run in accordance with the rules. The positions of the points will be indicated on a plan of the railway and provided to all teams in due course.

The distance between points F and G used for the traction challenge (in combination with the noise challenge) will provisionally be approximately 100m up the gradient between the
Haven and the tunnel.

Averaging of the acceleration: this will be measured using a vibration meter which takes successive one second average measurement for the duration of the test run.

Challenge course: hiring track for testing ahead of the Challenge

Do you allow track to be hired for testing vehicles? We are looking for some 10 ¼” track to test our vehicle?


It is not generally allowed for teams to have access to the railway track other than for the Challenge itself. This is mainly to avoid disturbing the railway but also as it could give an unfair advantage to other teams.

However, there are many 10¼” railways where you could test your locomotive.

Document submission: length of report

The design report can be no more than 12 pages, excluding appendixes, does that 12 pages include the executive summary or is it just 12 pages for the main body of the report?


There is no requirement for an executive summary. If you choose to include one, it does not have to be included within the 10-page limit but teams should note that only the 10 pages and appendices will be marked. Other material - title pages, contents list, executive summary etc. - is seen as supporting only.


FAQs 2017

Entries - entering all the challenges

Would there be any possibility of entering only the design based challenges, and having different levels of competition entry as there is in the Formula Student competition? We would hope to be in a position to enter all competitions, but we are keen to assess whether this is a possibility.

Answer: Teams may enter any of the challenges and there is no requirement to enter all of the challenges although the overall result will depend on the total points scored.

Entries - multiple locomotives

This year we are hoping to enter two locomotives, but the finer details are yet to be finalised, and we may not know about whether the second locomotive will definitely be entered until around February. Would it be possible to hold off on submitting the entry application for this second locomotive until this time?

Answer: Unfortunately, due to operational considerations we can only accommodate 12 running locomotives in the 2017 final. We are hoping to be able to increase this in 2018.

Innovation challenge - what is innovation?

Our team are having a little difficulty in determining what counts as “innovative”. We have discussed this at length and are unsure whether the innovation must be new to the rail Industry or just the Railway Challenge itself. Could you clarify what counts as an innovation?

Answer:  The team may focus on any innovation in their locomotive they wish when preparing the Innovation paper but, as the guidance in the Technical Specification (section 11.3) states, the paper should outline how the innovation improves on a conventional approach and how it may be adopted by the national railway. It would therefore need to be an innovation that is new to the railway industry.

Scrutineering checklist

I was wondering if you would be able to send me a copy of the scrutineering checklist so that I can ensure that the correct safety measures are implemented on our locomotive and that we are safe to compete. Having looked through the technical specification, there are some safety requirements specified but having some form of scrutineering checklist (even if it is from last years competition) will be a big help to ensuring that we have a safe locomotive.

Answer: The 2017 scrutinising checklist is being prepared. The 2016 checklist is available.

Trailing load

2017 Railway Challenge Technical Specifications. 10.1 states that “Performance demonstration will incorporate the haulage of a trailing load of up to 1200kg”. This is an increase of 600kg compared to the 2016 requirement. Is a 1200kg trailing load to be hauled during the challenges in 2017?



Answer: Yes, as specified in the Technical Specification (section 10.1) the maximum weight of the trailing load will be 1200kg. It is not possible to give an exact value of the trailing load from 2016 as it depends slightly on the mass of the 3 people carried in the vehicle but we estimate that it was 600kg. The rules and technical specification are varied each year to introduce new challenges and to reduce the disadvantage faced by new teams.

Wheelsets: non-standard

What requirements will apply to wheelsets of non-standard construction?

Answer: We welcome innovation and non-standard wheelsets and wheels will be permitted as long as all relevant aspects of the rules and technical specification are complied with (eg back-back dimensions, spacing of active faces, maximum axle load, wheel profile etc). For non-standard materials or construction methods etc, designs will need to be supported by relevant safety analysis (component failure) and appropriate supporting calculations.

Wheelsets: removal of a 'driven wheelset'

Does an axle need to be removed from a bogie or does the bogie just need to be removed from the chassis?

Answer: As specified in the rules, a single powered wheelset must be completely removed from the vehicle. Components directly attached to the wheelset (eg brake disks, gears, axleboxes, axle mounted traction motor) may remain with the removed wheelset. For a bogie vehicle the wheelset must be removed from the bogie.

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