As briefly outlined in the previous issue of Rail Engineer (152), the final of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ (IMechE) Railway Division Young Members annual presentation competition – The Future of Rail – was held in London on Monday 15 May 2017.

The competition is open to all young railway engineers including apprentices, undergraduates and those in the early stages of their career. Presentations can be about their contribution to work in any aspect of the rail industry, and describe project work, research, technical developments or novel technology. The final brought together the regional heat qualifiers from around the seven Railway Division Centres, so the competition was fierce and hotly contested.

Platforms, rail heads and vehicle dynamics

The first presenter to take to the stage on the night, Joseph Brown, a graduate engineer with Hitachi Rail Europe, represented the North East Centre. His presentation covered ‘Access Solutions for a Modern Train Production Line’ and detailed the work he conducted at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe train manufacturing facility. The configuration of access platforms on the production line was specifically created to ensure an optimal working environment for operatives whilst maintaining UK safety standards.

Second up was the representative from the new Milton Keynes Centre, Peter Watson. Peter is a mechanical engineer (fleet engineering) at Network Rail and his presentation was on ‘Optimising Rail Head Maintenance’. His work for Network Rail involved looking into the gains that can be made using various methods of prolonging railhead life. By looking into the benefits of rail grinders, rail milling machines and conventional re-railing, he was able to understand and develop a system to optimise working time on shift for maintenance teams.

Thirdly, the South East Centre’s Dr. Cencen Gong discussed Validation of Rail Vehicle Dynamics Models, undertaken as part of her work as a senior engineer at SNC-Lavalin.

She outlined the need for modelling, and the necessity of validation of the models to ensure accuracy. The accuracy of the modelling then can be relied upon, within the design and implementation of components and technology, to work towards a right- first-time approach of introduction.

Electrification, crashworthiness, maintenance and OLE

Next on stage was the representative from Scotland, Calum Oates. His presentation was on ‘Plant for Electrification’. Working as a mechanisation development manager for Babcock International, Calum presented on the plant in use electrifying the network with overhead lines, and how modifications are being made to allow the trains to be used on the UK infrastructure.

Micheil Gordon, the Midlands Centre representative, gave a presentation titled ‘Designing for a Crash in Modern Rail Vehicles’. Micheil’s work for Bombardier Transportation, where he is a graduate engineering trainee, dealt with crashworthiness of train bodies with a view to optimising the seating arrangements. (Bombardier’s Derby site is a centre of excellence within the company for crashworthiness.)

The penultimate speaker, Rowan Phillips, from the South West Centre, delivered an engaging presentation titled ‘20th Century trains, 21st Century Maintenance’. Rowan’s work as a quality manager for Arriva Trains Wales has modernised the maintenance regime, pulling work instructions and scheduling onto a digital platform which saves time and money.

Last, but by no means least, came the North West Centre’s representative, Peter Sommers.

Peter’s presentation covered the ‘12kA testing of Mark 3 Overhead Line Equipment’, which had been conducted in Croatia. Peter, who works as a senior project engineer for Network Rail, outlined the reasons for the work, what constraints were put on the testing, and the process used to conduct the tests, as well as a surprise or two encountered along the way.

Deliberations and a result

Following the presentations, the judges – Richard Maclean, chair- designate of the Railway Division; the author; Emil Tschepp, Railway Division Young Members (RDYM) vice-chair and Aoife Considine, RDYM committee member – retired to deliberate the outcome of the evening.

Whilst they were in discussion, Richard East, the current chair of the Railway Division, took the opportunity to call the AGM of the Division, and outlined the Division’s Annual Report for 2016, as well as the outcome of the Division’s governance elections.

With seven such strong presentations, the judges had a real task on hand to determine a winner, who would receive a £1000 prize drawn from the Stanley Herbert Whitelegg Memorial Grant, and the two runners up who would each win £250. After a relatively short 15 minutes, however, the judges returned and Richard Maclean, acting as chair of the judges, took to the stage to deliver the verdict.

Despite the strong entries across all presentations, there was a clear winner. The concise, professional and confident showing by Peter Watson, the Milton Keynes Centre representative, had won the judges over. They particularly praised his clarity and confidence, as well as the technical detail which he was able to convey to the audience in such a short timescale.

The runners up, Rowan Philips of Arriva Trains Wales, and Peter Sommers of Network Rail, could not be split on the judges’ scorecards on the night. Both presentations stood out for different reasons as the styles of delivery by the finalists had been different in each case, although both were deemed exceptional.

As they do year after year, the young engineers within the industry excelled themselves, throughout the heats and eventually in the final in London. The IMechE, and Rail Engineer, are looking forward to the next competition already, with heats to be held nationwide.

If you’re interested, and a young railway engineer, look out for your local centre’s heat. The final of the next event will be held in May 2018.


Read more: Inspiring international innovation: Stephenson’s legacy lives on