Railway Challenge

The Railway Challenge, organised by our Railway Division, provides a brilliant opportunity for aspiring teams to compete in yet another challenging industry-specific competition, showcasing their skills, expertise, knowledge, and business acumen.  The challenge, now in its fifth successive year, has and will continue to bring together teams of university students, as well as apprentices and graduates working in industry across the UK to test their business knowledge, design ability and technical skills in a live test environment. 

Participants are required to design and manufacture a miniature (10¼” gauge) railway locomotive in accordance with a set of strict rules and a detailed technical specification. The locomotives will be tested live at the competition weekend, which takes place from 29 June to 2 July 2017 at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire, where several categories of winners and an overall Railway Challenge champion will be crowned.

Entries for the 2017 competition are now closed. 

Competition weekend - spectator information

Friday 30 June, Saturday 1 July and Sunday 2  July 2017

Stapleford Miniature Railway, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, LE14 2SF.

Stapleford Miniature Railway SMR is a private railway. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has obtained permission to run this event from the SMR Trustees.

Pre event registration
Free tickets or tickets by donation are available on Eventbrite.co.uk for this event. On arrival you will need to collect your spectator badge and sign in with IMechE staff who will be situated in the marquee near the station building.

Getting to the event
  • Postcode for satnav is LE14 2SF
  • The route is down Stapleford Lane towards Stapleford Hall off the B676 Melton to Saxby Road.
  • Continue over the railway bridge and carry on into a single carriageway with passing places.
  • Continue over the humpback bridge and past the old farmhouses on your left. The main entrance to the field is the double gates on the left hand side.
  • Please note:
    • There is another Stapleford in Nottingham so do check you’re heading to the correct one!.
    • The railway cannot be accessed from Stapleford Hall (the hotel).

Parking is available on site. Once through the gates, continue up the track and park on the grass on the left hand side.


Spectators will be able to purchase hot beverages and snacks from the catering van on site between 08.00 and 16.00 on both days. The catering van will be situated by the station building on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Catering will be provided at the Haven on Sunday during the Challenge runs.

Spectator trains

The best vantage point for the track-based challenges will be on Sunday 2 July at The Haven. Trains will be running between the station and the Haven.  See Event Schedule.

Spectators will also be able to walk down to The Haven,  approximately 10 minutes from the Station building. As the walk is across fields, it is recommended that you dress accordingly, including suitable footwear.

Event schedule

Friday 30 June  - Set up and testing day.  No spectator trains will run

  • 0830 - 1430 Static scrutineering
  • 0930 - 1915 Dynamic scrutineering
  • 1300 -1745 Maintainability Challenge
  • Saturday 1 July  - Testing day. No spectator trains will run

    • 0830 - 1845 Test run of Locomotives
    • 0830 - 1315 Maintainability Challenge continues (from Friday)

    Sunday 2 July - Competition day Spectator trains will run hourly throughout the day

    • 0930 -1600 Challenge runs
    • 0930 -1600 Spectator trains every hour (from/to station)
    • 1545 -1630 Judges deliberation
    • 1630 -1700 Awards ceremony

The Challenge

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

The competition will challenge participating teams on several different aspects:

Track Based challenges:

  • Energy Storage Challenge
  • Traction Challenge
  • Ride Comfort Challenge
  • Noise Challenge
  • Maintainability Challenge
  • Reliability Challenge

Presentation challenges:

  • Design
  • Business Case
  • Innovation

For full details download the Railway Challenge Rules and Technical Specification.

Why get involved?

The Railway Challenge provides you and your team with the real-life experience of the entire cycle of designing and manufacturing a prototype in a structured environment supported by academic and industry mentors. It also provides a fairly risk free but representative environment in which you would develop key engineering skills alongside business and soft skills that will enhance your future in an engineering career.

2016 Railway Challenge teams and results

  1. SNC-Lavalin (1,291 points)
  2. TfL (789 points)
  3. University of Southampton (680 points)
  4. Bombardier & University of Derby (606 points)
  5. University of Huddersfield (283 points)
  6. WMG, University of Warwick (256 points)
  7. University of Sheffield‎ (221 points)
  8. University of Birmingham (‎107 points)

Competition weekend

The final judging and assessment is carried out at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire (postcode LE14 2SF). The competition weekend will take place from 29 June to 2 July 2017. Spectators will able to attend on either the Saturday or Sunday free of charge. If you are planning to attend the event as a spectator, Sunday is probably the best day as the locomotives will have passed scrutineering by then and will be competing against one another. 


We are open for corporate sponsorships as this event is a flagship event for inspiring the next generation and a great opportunity to build solidarity and support within the railway industry and supporting industries. If you would like to find out about Railway Challenge sponsorship opportunities, email Kellymarie Healy at k_healy@imeche.org.

How to enter

Registration for the 2017 Railway Challenge is now closed.

If you have any queries regarding 2017 entries, please email Kellymarie Healy at k_healy@imeche.org.

Awards for teams

For 2017 the following teams were successful recipients of the Railway Challenge Award. This is an award made to participating teams on application for one or more of three awards that is to be utilised towards enhancing innovation and engineering excellence within the design/build phase. The Award Applications for 2017 is now closed. 

  • Transport for London
  • UBRail AEGIS (University of Birmingham) 
  • University of Sheffield

Team resources

Watch the Railway Challenge 2015 video

The Railway Division

Find out more about the Railway Division.

Photos: David Shirres

Get in touch

If you have a question about competing in or sponsoring the Railway Challenge, we'd like to hear from you.

RAILWAY Challenge Gold+ Sponsor

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RAILWAY Challenge Gold Sponsor

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