Railway Challenge

The 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 our Railway Division

Watch the Railway Challenge 2015 video

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

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

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.

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. In 2016, the competition weekend took place on 2 to 3 July. Spectators were able to attend on either the Saturday or Sunday free of charge. If you're thinking about attending the event as a spcetator, Sunday is probably the best day as the locos will have passed scrutineering by then and will be competing against one another. It is free for spectators to come along to watch on both days.

Download information for spectators.


If you would like to find out about Railway Challenge sponsorship opportunities email k_healy@imeche.org.

How to enter

Registration forms for the 2017 Railway Challenge will be available in October 2016. If you have any queries regarding 2017 entries email k_healy@imeche.org.

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.


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.

*Subject to change

The Railway Division

Photos courtesy of 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.