Engineering Students Take Up The Railway Challenge

RCAS 2019 Competition TeamThe Railway Challenge at Sheffield student led team, which involves students from across the Faculty of Engineering, recently took part in the 8th annual Railway Challenge 2019, organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The competition, which is run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway Division, challenges participants to design and build a locomotive, using their creativity and technical skills to apply the latest railway technology. This year, it included the added challenge of building an emergency automatic braking mechanism into their locomotives too.

After designing and manufacturing their 10¼” gauge locomotive in Sheffield over the past year, the team of undergraduate engineering students travelled to the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire for the competition weekend in late June, competing against teams from across the UK, Europe and beyond.

After a busy few days, Railway Challenge at Sheffield (aka RCAS) came in overall 5th place out of the 14 competing teams, also placing joint first in the reliability category.

“We had a great time at Railway Challenge this year, it’s always really satisfying to take something we have designed and built to competition – especially when it works!” says Ben Cutler, Team Principal for 2018/19.

“To have placed 5th overall is a fantastic achievement, particularly as we are a completely extra-curricular team and half of our team is in either their first or second year of engineering study. Many of the other teams are creating their locomotives as part of their degree course, or are already graduates working in the industry.

“It has been a privilege to lead the team this year and I want to thank them all for their hard work, creativity and perseverance. Also a big thanks to our supervisors and departments for all their help and support, and all of our sponsors too. It has definitely been a high to end my degree on,” adds Ben, who graduated from his mechanical engineering degree this summer.

RCAS Team Members Rachel and Ben at the 2019 CompetitionThe 25-strong team competed in all the paper and track challenges including design reporting, business case, innovation to industry, traction, energy storage, noise, ride comfort, maintainability, reliability and scrutineering.

As with previous years, they will be taking their learning forward into the next academic year, with preparations for Railway Challenge 2020 starting as soon as terms begins.

“We’re already looking forward to next year’s competition and what we can do to innovate our design and challenge ourselves,” says Rachel Crawford, who will be taking up the role of Team Principal for 2019/20.

“I’m really excited to lead the team as we gear up to competition, and also welcoming a new cohort of members to the team. Being part of a student led activity like this has been amazing – we learn so much and get some fantastic hands-on experience, and so I’m really keen to encourage others to get involved” adds the materials science and engineering student.

Congratulations to all of the team!




If you’re interested in finding out more about Railway Challenge, visit the IMechE website here. You can also find out more about the Railway Challenge at Sheffield team on their facebook page RailwayChallengeAtSheffield.