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Newcomers big on (at)traction at the Railway Challenge

Full speed ahead for future mobility with the next generation.

Major changes of direction relating to everything from drive technologies to business models lie ahead – not only for the automotive industry, but also for the railways – which makes it vital to find new recruits and capture their imagination. The Stapleford Miniature Railway’s annual Railway Challenge takes a pioneering approach to this. The event sees miniature locomotives built to a scale of 1:5.5 competing in various categories. The very first competitor from Poland took part last year – a team from Poznań University of Technology (PUT). Its PUTrain was an immediate hit and won a special award. The locomotive has profile technology from item on board in its frame structure.

Gaining important career experience

PUT has long been one of Poland’s top technical universities. Theory isn’t the only thing that counts, though. Equal emphasis is placed on students discovering the challenges of working life at an early stage. The university’s practical projects include a team for Formula Student (a competition we’ve already reported on) and a group using solar technology to power a vehicle. “Being faced with an actual task is obviously very different from hearing about it in a lecture,” says Aleksander Gapinski, who is responsible for marketing the PUTrain.

Teamwork, time management and a flair for presentation are also important aspects of the Railway Challenge.

The biggest challenge facing the team of just under 20 students taking part in the competition was that they were starting completely from scratch. Technical capabilities weren’t the only requirement. Soft skills such as teamwork, time management and a flair for presentation were equally important – the very things that are vital for a successful career in industry.

The team assembling the PUTrain at the Railway Challenge.

Miniature locomotive benefits from profile technology

A specific feature of the PUTrain is its use of materials that are as lightweight as possible. The outer shell is made of plastic, for instance, while carbon fibre reinforced leaf springs provide the appropriate suspension. The key properties of these springs – low weight and good stability – are even more apparent in the aluminium profiles from the MB Building Kit System that are used for the basic structure.

The PUT students also appreciate our profiles’ flexibility and uncomplicated fasteners. What’s more, they were ideal for the rainy British weather. “We made a point of designing our locomotive to cope with this kind of weather, so we needed profiles that would definitely withstand such conditions. The aluminium profiles from item were perfect in this regard,” underlines Aleksander. Staff from item Poland were happy to help the team.

All kinds of tests in the Railway Challenge

But what does this competition actually involve? A total of 10 of the 14 participating teams made it through to the final in June 2019 – including the students from Poznań. All the locomotives were put through their paces at the weekend event. The competition is based on the following scenario: All the teams were to imagine they were working for a design consultancy producing a draft design and prototype for a large company. The organisers take on the role of the customer and make absolutely sure the strict technical requirements are met. The grand finale of the Railway Challenge ultimately takes place on the Stapleford Miniature Railway.

The newcomers from Poznań University of Technology won the special award for ingenuity and elegance in mechanical design at their first attempt.

In addition to thorough testing of aspects such as ride comfort, energy storage, noise and performance, the competition also included an “auto stop challenge” for the first time. This requires the relevant locomotive to be able to stop automatically 25 metres after an obstacle appears. In addition, participants must prove they can give an effective presentation of their locomotive. The newcomers from Poznań University of Technology won the special award for ingenuity and elegance in mechanical design at their first attempt. The PUTrain’s highly original and innovative design completely won over the judging panel, as did the materials used. Buoyed by this success, the members of the team are starting their preparations for the Railway Challenge 2020 full of confidence.

This memento demonstrates PUT’s pride in its team.

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