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Railway Challenge


The IMechE Railway Challenge is designed for teams of engineering students studying at a UK university or apprentices working in industry. They are required to design and manufacture a miniature (10¼” gauge) railway locomotive in accordance with a set of rules and a technical specification. At the end of each year, a competition weekend takes place where the teams compete against each other to test their locomotive designs and determine a winner.

The competition is organised by the Railway Division of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The competition weekend in June 2013 built on the success of the inaugural event the year before. Over 100 people came to Stapleford Miniature Railway near Melton Mowbray to watch reigning champions Interfleet take on three university teams; Birmingham, Huddersfield and Manchester Metropolitan. Competition was fierce with Huddersfield University eventually proving triumphant. We were delighted to once again have David Shirres cover the event for us and you can read his article here.

In the 2013-14 academic year the challenge is open to teams from any UK university or railway company. The competition dates are Friday 27 June to Sunday 29 June 2014. Teams intending to participate should enter in accordance with the details given below.


The Challenge

For the purpose of the Railway Challenge competition, teams will assume that they work for a design consultancy producing a locomotive for a large corporation.  They will design and manufacture the prototype of this locomotive and they will then test this against prototypes manufactured by the other teams. The challenges are as follows:

Track Based challenges:

  • Energy Storage Challenge
  • Traction Challenge
  • Ride Comfort Challenge

Presentation challenges:

  • Design Challenge
  • Business Case Challenge

Full details are given in the Railway Challenge Rules and Technical Specification available for download from the team guidance section of this site.

How to Enter

To enter a team for the 2014 Railway Challenge please email and include the following information: your University or company, Team Supervisor and your Team Leader (names, job titles where applicable, full postal address, email addresses, telephone and mobile numbers).

Teams will be notified if they have been accepted within one week of submitting their application. The cost for taking part in the Railway Challenge is £350 + VAT (for up to 10 team members plus a supervisor). Additional team members will be charged £35 + VAT (up to a maximum of 10 additional members). Payment will only be requested once teams are notified that they have been successfully registered.

Why get involved?

The Railway Challenge will provide teams of young engineers with experience of design and manufacture of a prototype vehicle. A structured environment will be provided with academic and industry mentors and a fairly risk free but representative environment in which to develop key engineering skills.  



Taking part in the Railway Challenge has taught us the fundamental aspects of Railway challenges, practical and theoretical engineering and has enabled the team to appreciate the importance of railway dynamics especially the metal-on-metal interface between the wheel and track.

Siddiq Albusmait, Team Captain
Huddersfield Railway Challenge Team
2013 Winners of the Railway Challenge

Competition weekend

The final judging and assessment is carried out at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire. The 2014 competition weekend will be from 27 to 29 June, with spectators able to attend on either 28th or 29th June, although 29th is probably the best day as the locos will have passed scrutineering by then and be competing against one another. It is free for spectators to come along to watch on both days. Please email Rachel Pearson, Project Manager for the Railway Challenge, to reserve your place


If you have any queries regarding the Railway Challenge please email the rules committee at

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© 2014 Institution of Mechanical Engineers. IMechE is a registered charity in England and Wales number 206882