Railway Challenge

Entries for the 2017 Railway Challenge  are now open, providing 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 designed locomotive will be tested live at the competition weekend, which takes place from 29 June to 2 July 2017 at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire, to crown several categories of winners and an overall Railway Challenge champion.

This competition is organised by our Railway Division

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 open. To enter the competition, complete the entry form. The closing date for entries is 30 November 2016.

Teams must submit an outline project plan within one month of their entry being confirmed. This is required to be a top level plan to capture main milestones and expected completion dates for each, and will need to be referred and tracked for progress within the Design Challenge Report.

If you have any queries regarding 2017 entries, please email Kellymarie Healy at 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 £425 + VAT (for up to 10 team members plus a supervisor). Additional team members will be charged £42.50 + VAT (up to a maximum of 10 additional members). Payment needs to be submitted along with the booking form.

Awards for teams

Upon successful registration participating teams will be invited to apply for one or more of three awards that may be utilised towards enhancing innovation and engineering excellence within the design/build phase. The application for awards will be circulated once registrations for the competition are closed.

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.