University of Sheffield

University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield's Faculty of Engineering Railway Department

November Update 2023

We have continued to build a working relationship with colleagues in the UK, principally in Sheffield, as this is where our loco is being built. This takes 2 forms :-

1. Institution of Mechanical Engineers Annual Railway Challenge. This is set every year and Sheffield enter a Team (RCAS); we sit in on their Design Evaluation Meetings. We assist them by making, hopefully, constructive suggestions at anything up to 4 Zoom Meetings. We have achieved up to 2nd place in the competitions so far.

2. Group Design Briefs. As an integral part of their 3rd Year Engineering Course, all Undergraduates choose to take part in a Group Design Brief supplied by Industry. For the past 4 years we have had the priviledge to write one of these Briefs (MEC 307). They have dealt with the Tender, the smokebox, and the firebox etc. These students then have to be mentored throughout the completion of the course by ZOOM meetings and Grants have been obtained to make some of the design solutions. The 2024 Design Brief is being wriiten at the moment.

Challenge at Sheffield (RCAS) 2023 – Friday 3rd to Sunday 25th July

Once again, we have been able to support the students at Sheffield University in the iMechE Railway Challenge. The Team from Sheffield is known as RCAS (Railway Challenge At Sheffield) and it was an opportunity for us to support them on the Saturday, 24th June. The Railway Challenge took place on 23-25th June this year at Stapleford Park (near Loughborough): Sheffield’s competition this year were teams from FH Aachen and Reuschling (last year’s winner), Network Rail and Colas Rail, Newcastle University, PUtrain from Poznan, University of Birmingham, Transport for London and the University of Derby / Alstom. It is a challenge for Students and Apprentices.

The team was made up about 24 students. They arrived on the Friday and camped out all weekend; on Sunday, the final day saw temperatures around 30C. Our locomotive was brand new, manufactured during the year. The only parts from previous entries included the wheels, axles, radial arms and lower frames. This year the Trust was one of their sponsors and the loco proudly carried an appropriately reduced (in size) nameplate ‘Spirit of Sandringham’. It therefore becomes the first loco in the world to run under this name!

I arrived on Saturday, with my colleague John Barnes and our publicity stand, which we set up in the marquee. This should have been good for footfall in normal weather; unfortunately, the heat meant the vast majority of people ate outside in the cool breeze.  However, we did have some interesting chats with various people, answering their very technical questions – especially those from the Head Judge.

During the day, we chatted with members of the Sheffield team, and saw their preparations for the main run over the 2 mile 10.25” gauge line, successfully completing the circuit with two coaches containing some of the judges. We had missed their Maintainability and Refuelling Challenges, as they had done that on the Friday, but we did watch one of the competition do theirs. At the end of the day, when the team were doing some last minutes checks, they demonstrated how they jack up the engine and change the wheel and finally we took a group photo. The final tests were on the Sunday, which is also a public day – it is booked in my calendar for next year!

I saw a lot of skill and professionalism in the way they approached the tasks and solved the any issues that arose, and felt they deserved to win. The team finished in 4th place, winning the Technical Poster Challenge and the Innovation Challenge, as well as taking second place in several others. This Competition was the most competitive in several years, with the top three teams finishing just 16 points apart. Having designed and built an entirely new single-body locomotive in just one year, RCAS was able to compete in all challenges and achieved their highest overall competition score to date by a significant margin. John Pearson

The 2023 team The 2023 RCAS team from Sheffield University with their locomotive 'Spirit of Sandringham'.

Sheffield University's Railway Department visits our Loco Works - March 2023

Fulfilling B17’s Community Plan - Sheffield University Students view B17 Project Progress 

Chairman Brian Hall welcomed 12 students and their Tutor from the Engineering Faculty (Railway Group) to CTL Seal Ltd (Sheffield) on Wednesday 22nd March for a briefing and update on the B17 project. Engineering Director Geoff Turner, on behalf of the ‘Clan’ project, also participated in this inclusive event.

Formed into two groups, each viewed the assembled frame structures representing each project, including any individual component parts available. The necessary documentary control measures to meet modern rail authority requirements for mainline operation associated with design, manufacture, inspection and test activities were described, common to both projects. Opportunities to visit Profiling, Fabrication and Machining departments of the Works were arranged and also included a demonstration of hardness testing materials, performed by a member of CTL Seal staff. Both LNER Group Standard Tenders and the Great Eastern Tender (rolling chassis) associated with the B17 project were included in the visit. 

Student’s comments received both during and at the conclusion of the visit indicated a good level of interest in all that they had observed, and learned from the commentaries and answers to their questions in connection with each project. 

Brian Hall and Geoff Turner wish to acknowledge the help and assistance provided by CTL Seal Ltd. staff before and during the visit which ensured that the event was successful. Thanks are also due to Messrs. Andy England and Luke England who gave their permission on behalf of the company to arrange this visit.  

MEC 307 Team photo CTL Seal visit 22 3 2023 MEC 307 Team Photo. 
RCAS sudents at CTL Seal  RCAS students visit CTL Seal 22 3 2023

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 unusual 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.

Higher Education – University of Sheffield - 2020

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 2021 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.