Railway Challenge at Sheffield (RCAS) - 26th June 2021

Since moving to Sheffield, we have been fortunate to be able to participate in 2 distinct projects with the University. Firstly, we were invited to write a Group Design Brief for 3rd Year undergraduates, in which we benefited from their input to our Tender design.

The second project was an invitation to sit on their Design Review Team for their entry to the IMechEng Railway Challenge. The Team from Sheffield is known as RCAS and it was an opportunity for us to support them. The final Railway Challenge took place on 26th June at Stapleford Park (Near Loughborough) and teams were entered from Huddersfield, Warwick, Brunel, Posnam Universities, TfL, Network Rail, Ricardo Rail, Imperial College amongst others (usually about 15-16 entries). The following is taken from a report on the Final written by Jacob Whittle (Team Leader).

Whilst the Team is made up of 24 students, only a small number were allowed to attend on the day, due to Covid restrictions. The Team arrived on the Friday and camped out all weekend in the rain! Our locomotive was all brand new, based upon designs and manufacture during the year. The only parts from previous entries included the wheels, axles, radial arms and lower frames. RCAS was the only Team to have a radically different locomotive design. 

When we arrived, our locomotive could not move under its own power. Despite the bad weather, RCAS did what it does best – troubleshooting, soldering, programming and crimping – until we had a fully working locomotive ready for testing on the Sunday.

Sunday saw a flawless dynamic scrutineering run followed by our maintainability challenge. Whilst this latter is usually our strongest challenge, we couldn't equal or beat our standing world record – this is in our sights for next year. Further tests included regenerative braking and autostop challenges. Come the end of the day, we had secured 1,037 points which was our highest ever score and only 50 points behind the eventual winners – Hudrail (University of Huddersfield).

We collected first place in the Traction and Reliability Challenges and gained a special award for 'Illuminating Design'. A brilliant and well-deserved result for the Team who all worked really hard all year. It is the first time we have achieved a podium finish and 2nd place meant that all the hard work and rain were forgotten. Well done to the whole Team!!

    Loco in action    
    An unusal looking beast - but effective, gaining 2nd place in the competition    

On a personal note, I have to say that working with the RCAS Team has been a privilege and an inspiring experience. I can only hope that we were able to support them in their Design work. It was a really well deserved result and I hope that I have the opportunity to work with the Team again next year.


Students visit CTL Seal - 15th June 2021

Members of staff and students representing the Railway Group from Sheffield University were shown the mainframe structure of Spirit of Sandringham on 15th June at the Sheffield site of CTL Seal Ltd. Hornblock castings, waiting their turn to be machined were also noted.  Brian Hall, John Pearson and Larry Sampson welcomed the visitors and explained the major features of the mainframe including the purpose and location of steel castings representing initial items released for manufacture in support of the rolling chassis programme. The LNER Group Standard Tender and the rolling chassis of the GE Tender were also viewed. The visit was concluded with a presentation about the service life of the class B17s and outlined design improvements to be embodied in the new build version. The manufacture of parts inclusive of construction achieved to date were also illustrated and discussed.  

Sheffield Students at CTL 150621 2 Sheffield Students at CTL 150621 1
Sheffield students viewing the frames.

Students discussion by the recently cast Hornblocks.

Photos by J Pearson

As part of the Mechanical Engineering Faculty at the university, the Railway Group and B17SLT had already established working arrangements to provide learning opportunities for undergraduates based upon engineering design tasks associated with the B17 project. Similarly, participation in Design Reviews to support practical “railway challenges” pursued by other student groups had extended this cooperative relationship. Based upon the successful achievements to date further tasks have been identified, to be developed for inclusion as part of the next academic year’s curriculum in this area. This initiative provides a powerful contribution to The Trust’s obligation toward public benefit involving young people. 

B17SLT wish to acknowledge and thank the Management Team of CTL SEAL Ltd, who gave their permission for this visit.

Compiled by B. Hall 18/6/2021

B17 SLT Education Programme – Updated June 2021

Secondary Education – Spotlight on Specifics

After 3 years of trialling in a group of 5 Secondary Schools, we have completed a package of Learning Support Materials which use 'Steam Power' as the learning context. They support various activities in GCSE Science courses and are clearly linked to the Assessment Objectives in the National Curriculum. A further package can be used to deliver A Level Design and Technology linked to the syllabuses from the various Examination Authorities. These materials have been developed by our Team in conjunction with Teaching Staff and STEM Co-ordinators in the trial schools.

It was our intention to compare the predicted results in 2020 (using our Materials) with the actual Examination results obtained in order to verify the validity of our scheme. Whilst approx. 50 students at A Level and 200 at GCSE were involved, the examination was cancelled due to the Covid Pandemic.

Subsequently, we obtained extended funding and ran the scheme for a further year but the Examination was cancelled again in 2021. Despite this, we have agreed on a comparative review of our Assessments with the final Teacher Assessed marks within the Trial Schools. HMI and STEM will be involved in this exercise so hopefully we will get a positive outcome and a recommendation for the use of S-o-S materials in any school from next September. We will then need to find a Publisher willing to publish the scheme on our behalf.

Since moving to Sheffield in October 2020, we have been contacted by a small group of Secondary Schools in the Sheffield area, wanting to know more about our Learning Support Materials. This has been discussed with them and we propose to start a small trial group of schools on the materials in September. Initially these schools will be given the use of our materials for free in the first year only and we will gain valuable experience in distanced learning.

Further Education – Craft Apprenticeships

As a Charity, we are committed to improved Training for young Engineers. We believe that Training is improved by the use of real-life contexts. Students learn skills and processes much quicker if they can identify with the task in hand. Therefore, using our New Build Project as a learning context must have advantages over a 'virtual' process. We have started talking to Employers, Colleges and Training Agencies in order to see how we can set up a 'premium' training scheme for Engineering students. We are interested in talking to anyone who can help us facilitate a quality Apprenticeship scheme (currently known by us as Alpha Training) and we hope to report definitive progress by the beginning of the next Academic Year.

Higher Education – University of Sheffield

Since moving our manufacturing base to Sheffield, we have received a warm welcome from all sections of the Community. We made contact with the Faculty of Engineering, University of Sheffield through our STEM colleagues and this has proved to be an extremely beneficial relationship. Since October 2020, we have managed to set up 2 distinct areas of co-operation with the Faculty.

Firstly, we have been asked to submit a Design Brief for the 3rd Year Undergraduate Group Design exercise. A Design Brief was written, based upon the design of an LNER Tender for use on the mainline in the 21st Century. This was approved by the Faculty and completed by a group of students from Christmas 2020 until May 2021. The outcomes are currently with the Faculty of Engineering, but will then be passed to us for evaluation. It is hoped that this will prove extremely useful in designing our new tender. Following a visit by students to CTL Seal in June, we have agreed the topics to be covered in the next 3 Design Briefs so we now have to sit down and write them for the new Academic Year. This has been a successful exercise in how the Faculty can assist us in our Project, whilst improving student experience.

Secondly, we have become involved in a second activity through which, I hope, we can help the students with their work. Every year the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (ImechEng) sets a Railway Challenge and a number of universities compete to see who can come up with the best solution. We were invited to join the Sheffield Team's (RCAS) Design review sessions. This was a fascinating experience and we hope that we made some useful comments in support. The competition takes place on 26th June and the results will be announced on our website.

Sheffield University Faculty of Engineering Students at work on this year's (2021) RCAS Challenge
IMG 7954 IMG 7963 1 IMG 7967 IMG 7969 1 IMG 8005
 Working on the removable axle sets  The body takes shape  The Drive Train  All the electronics installed  One of the two power bogies complete

We would like to thank everyone involved in the Trust for the support and help in taking this initiative forward.

Progress on 'Spotlight on Specifics' in Schools - January 2019 update

This coming week sees the first Moderation Trial for Design Assignments in A Level Design and Technology. All the trial schools completed their first Design Assignment before Christmas, and this coming week, we will meet with STEM Co-ordinators and examples of students work in order to standardise our levels of assessment. This will be repeated after completion of the second Assignment in March.

On Sunday 20/1/2019, I was invited to attend a 'Burns Lunch' at New Hall School, Chelmsford, Essex - one of our trial schools. During the lunch the Welcome to the Haggis was given by Arthur Jarvis (previously Senior Draughtsman at North British Locomotive Works), the Toast to the Lassies was given by myself and the Reply was given by Ms Elizabeth Hope (Vice Chair of Chelmsford Lions). Following the formal speeches, I was invited to talk to the guests about the work of the Trust, with particular reference to our work in Schools. In all, there were 62 guests present and this certainly represented a different audience for the Trust. I hope that we might get other invitations in the future. Report by Larry Sampson.

Educational Support Initiative

In an attempt to inspire a younger generation with this new build Steam Project, the Trust is developing a range of Educational Support Materials for Secondary School students in England and Wales. These materials are entitled 'Spotlight on Specifics' and focus on GCSE Science and GCE A Level Design and Technology. At GCSE level, they comprise specific Lesson Plans/Practical sessions, whilst at A level they comprise specific Design Assignments; all related to Steam Power and its applications.

These materials are used by the Subject Teacher with help from the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Coordinator in each School and cover all relevant topics in the course. Currently we are testing these materials in 5 trial Schools; progress will be evaluated by the Trust, STEM and representatives from the DfE (Department of Education) at the end of the first year. It is hoped that the completed Support Materials will be available to all schools following a successful trial.

The program is aimed at developing students’ understanding of scientific principle, as well as to inspire them with the possibilities for Engineering in the 21st Century. If any school would like to find out more, please contact Larry Sampson on 07749 317373.