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IMechE Rail Challenge

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What is Warwick Rail Challenge?

Warwick Rail Challenge is a 4th year engineering project (with extra-curricular students) to create a 1/5th scale locomotive which will be used to compete in the IMechE Railway Challenge. The team must design and manufacture a miniature (10¼” gauge) railway locomotive in accordance with a set of strict rules and a detailed technical specification. The locomotive will be tested live at the competition weekend alongside competitors from different universities and rail companies. At the competition, which takes place in June at Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire, several categories of winners and an overall Railway Challenge champion will be crowned.

last year

The 2017 Warwick team at the IMechE Railway Challenge.

Who Are We?

The team is led by 4th year Masters of Engineering students, who also work on the locomotive as part of their final academic submission. There is a team of extra-curricular students also working on the project, alongside support and guidance from academic staff and technicians. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the team haven’t made it to the competition for the last 5 years. However, we are positive that the 2024 team will be in attendance with a competitive locomotive. We are grateful for the work in previous years, our sponsors, and the university, for enabling this. The 2024 team already has a string of success, including the first Warwick team to have a working locomotive with new designs by February, and we can’t wait to see what will be achieved before June.

Warwick Rail Team 2023/24 Group Photo

Meet the team, from left to right: Dan, Harry, Alex, Lydia, Emanuele, Alwyn, Taran, Noby.

What is the IMechE Railway Challenge?

The Railway Division of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), organises the event which provides 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 thirteenth year, brings together teams of university students, as well as apprentices and graduates working in industry, to test their business knowledge, design ability and technical skills in a live test environment.

The competition has 11 tasks to compete in both on and off the track. Although some teams do not compete in every event; this is usually due to project overruns causing some aspects of a design not being implemented. The tasks are as follows:

On track:

  1. The Reliability Challenge: Teams will need to demonstrate fault free running to the satisfaction of the judges.
  2. The Energy Storage Challenge: This challenge aims to assess how well the locomotive can recover and reuse energy, for example, when stopping at and restarting from a station.
  3. The Traction Challenge: This challenge tests the ability of the designed locomotive to pull a load from a standing start.
  4. The Ride Comfort Challenge: This challenge will test the effectiveness of the suspension of the locomotive to isolate the locomotive body from track irregularities and other sources of vibration.
  5. The Maintainability Challenge: This challenge will test the ease with which major components can be safely removed from the locomotive and then replaced to test the ease with which maintenance can be carried out.
  6. Auto-Stop Challenge: This challenge tests the ability of the locomotive to automatically stop a hauled load in a controlled manner.
  7. NEW optional challenges for 2024: Autocoupler Challenge, Aerodynamic Drag Challenge, Location Announcement Challenge, or the Remote Data Recording and Monitoring Challenge.

Off track:

  1. The Design Challenge: This challenge takes the form of a short written report that is submitted to the judges four weeks prior to the competition. The report includes sections on technical components, costing, maintenance, and how progress was made against an original project plan.
  2. The Business Case Challenge: The Railway Challenge teams are to consider themselves as representatives of a manufacturer that has produced a prototype locomotive which they wish to tender for a locomotive procurement competition. The Railway Challenge judges have formed a large company, IMERC Limited and wish to procure a number 10¼ inch gauge locomotives for lease to commercial attraction operators, school/college engineering courses or other application. IMERC invites interested parties to present a business case for their locomotive with a view to winning an order to supply a fleet of fifty (50) locomotives.
  3. Locomotive Aesthetic and Technical Poster Challenge: This challenges the aesthetic quality of the constructed locomotives as well as their produced technical poster.
  4. The Innovation Challenge: This challenge takes the form of a written submission in the format of an academic journal article or conference style research paper which will describe a novel and innovative aspect of the locomotive design.


The team are also preparing for new considerations in the 2025 challenge including: a new energy efficiency challenge, a mandatory requirement for ride-on locomotives, a mandatory requirement to have an additional load vehicle (increased to 3 load vehicles), and a mandatory requirement for locomotives to be fully bi-directional for operation and coupling. For more information on the challenge, please visit the IMechE Railway Challenge website.


We’re looking for sponsorship for the Warwick Rail Project to help keep us on track for the challenge. Our 2023/24 sponsorship pack can be downloaded hereLink opens in a new window. If you would be interested in providing sponsorship, we would love to hear from you. Please reach out to railproject at warwick dot ac dot uk.

This year's team is kindly sponsored by the Warwick School of Engineering, Warwick Manufacturing Group, and Catapult. Previous sponsors of the project include: Catapult High Value Manufacturing, West Midlands Rail Executive, Chiltern Railways, RS Components, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, Morgan Advanced Materials, Spectron Gas Control Systems, Arcola Energy, Acorn Printing, EBC Brakes, 4QD Electric Motor Control, and RoboteQ Motor Controllers.

Get Involved

If you are a current student at the University of Warwick, we're always looking for more extra-curriculars to join the team - whether in engineering, marketing, or finance. Please reach out to our email or social media for more information!

Contact us


Academic Supervisor Email (Dr. Darren Hughes):

Address: Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL

Phone (Warwick Manufacturing Group Reception): 024 7652 4871

Instagram: @warwickrail

Facebook: @warwickrailproject

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