Railway Challenge


The IMechE Railway Challenge brings 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. 

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 academic 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. Our video below gives you a flavour of what the challenge involves.

2016 Railway Challenge team list

WMG, University of Warwick
University of Sheffield
University of Huddersfield
University of Birmingham
University of Southampton

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
  • Traction
  • Ride Comfort
  • Noise
  • Maintainability

Presentation challenges:

  • Design
  • Business Case
  • Innovation

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 2017 Railway Challenge please complete the Railway Challenge booking form 2017 and email it to k_healy@imeche.org by Friday 16 December 2016. Download the Railway Challenge booking form here.

Confirmation of entry: Teams will be notified if their entry has been accepted within one week of submitting their application. Please note that the competition can only accommodate 10 teams and places will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis.

Costs: 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 needs to be submitted along with the booking form.

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.

Competition weekend

The final judging and assessment is carried out at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire. The 2016 competition weekend will be from 2 to 3 July, with spectators able to attend on either the Saturday or Sunday free of charge. Sunday is probably the best spectator 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 Katherine Phipps, Project Manager for the Railway Challenge, to reserve your place. 

Spectators information

Download our information for spectators.


If you would like to find out about sponsor opportunities for the Railway Challenge, please contact Katherine Phipps by email at k_phipps@imeche.org.



If you have any queries regarding the Railway Challenge please email the rules committee at railwaychallenge@imeche.org.

Team resources

Technical specification 2016

Rules 2016

Scrutineer checklist

RC02 - Loading Gauge

RC03 - Wheel profile

Scores from the 2015 event