Full steam ahead for Sheffield students

Posted on 28 Apr 2015 by Victoria Fitzgerald

A team of 25 students from Sheffield University are gearing up to compete at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway Challenge, a UK-wide competition to build the best locomotive.

The team has already won £1,500 in funding from the Institution for the Best Application, which is being used to help the team prepare their 2015 project.

The students will be pitting themselves against seven other teams to design and manufacture the best, most efficient and quietest small-scale locomotive.

The event will take place in June at the Stapleford Miniature Railway near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

The competition will see teams compete against each other to design and manufacture the best, most efficient and quietest small-scale locomotive.

Teams competing against Sheffield University this year are: Birmingham University, Huddersfield University (who won the competition in 2013), Interfleet (based in Derby, who won in 2012), Southampton University, Swindon’s TE Connectivity, Transport for London (who were last year’s winners) and Warwick Manufacturing Group (part of the University of Warwick).

The competition comprises of two presentation challenges, one of which is the submission of a design report and the other being a business case presentation, and six track based challenges, which will be decided over the weekend.

These include: energy storage, traction, ride comfort, noise and new for the 2015 competition maintainability and energy efficiency.

David Roebuck, team principal of the Sheffield University Railway Challenge Team, said: “We are really looking forward to competing in June.

“We have now finished designing the train and we’re making good progress with manufacturing it. If it all goes to plan we expect to be competitive at Stapleford.

“This year’s team is made up of mainly first and second year mechanical engineering students who have enjoyed engaging with the task.

“We have used the Institution’s funding to buy essential components like axles, brakes and larger wheels to help us get to competition.

“The design will then be improved on and optimised in future years which should give us an edge.”

Philippa Oldham, head of Transport and Manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The Railway Challenge gives competitors a fantastic chance to test their engineering skills and get the hands-on experience of what’s needed to make a locomotive from start to finish.

“The competition is run along the lines of a real-life tendering process, and teams have to prepare a business case, finance, design, and build a locomotive from scratch.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the new innovations in this year’s locomotives, particularly the solutions that are being proposed for both the energy storage and energy efficiency challenges.

“These are two big issues currently being faced by manufacturers and the solutions these young engineers have developed as part of this competition could one day revolutionise modern railways.

“This year looks set to be a tight contest, with more teams than ever and three previous winners taking part.”

Competing locomotives are designed to work on 10¼ gauge railway line and must be powerful enough to transport a 600kg load – including one of the Railway Challenge judges.

The trophy will be presented to the winning team by Professor Richard Folkson, President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, on Sunday 28 June 2015.