IMechE Railway Challenge

So one reason for my lack of posts recently was due to the IMechE Railway Challenge, held at the Stapleford Miniature Railway. The challenge is to build a 10 1/4″ gauge locomotive capable of pulling a 600kg load, and they’re scored based on the ride quality, traction power and regenerative energy capability. It’s based on Formula Student, but aimed at creating interest in the railways once again, rather than cars which have a lot of enthusiasts already.

One of my colleagues at work wanted to enter as an independent team, and my friend Phil, myself and the lovely Rob (my boyfriend) said we’d help him out a bit. Unfortunately, a lot of the helping out happened over the last 5 weeks. Seeing as the Challenge itself was four days ago, and the build started in earnest about 3 weeks before then, needless to say the first time our locomotive was fully assembled was at the challenge site. Also, due to the complete lack of testing (what with it not existing until the day before), we didn’t do very well and came 4th (out of 4).

On the positive side, we did build a locomotive which moved under its own power (and stopped under its own power using “active braking”, although there was no parking brake or indeed friction brakes at all). We did this in a VERY short time, using freely available hand tools, and spent under £2000. Don’t believe me? Have some video evidence:

Morning Star moves! This was about 5 minutes before we were due to compete, and Rob had just spent a frantic couple of hours replacing and rejigging the electronics after they got burnt out during testing. The sharp rattling sound near the end is the chain falling off the drivegear – our suspension is far too soft so the gap between the two sprockets can (and did) decrease, resulting in a lost chain. However, a week before our suspension was far too hard, and they would not have let us compete. Swings and roundabouts.

Fifteen minutes after the video was taken (the judges needed some extra time to set things up) we attempted to compete, and the electronics blew up after pulling the 600kg load 10 metres. Still, it’s better than the 1 metre we managed the previous day. As I maintain, it is a 1000% improvement!

Anyway, life got put on hold on the run up to the Challenge. Rob and I are just starting to get things back on track as the house is a tip, and the garden has become a jungle! I dread going back out there to tackle the weeds and the lawn. :(