Young engineers helping GCR to bridge the gap

The Great Central Railway’s construction of a new eighteen mile heritage railway in the East Midlands has been used to teach the engineers of the future.

Sir John Armitt, ICE President and Nicky Morgan MP with young engineers from Woodbrook Vale School and Limehurst Academy.
Sir John Armitt, ICE President and Nicky Morgan MP with young engineers from Woodbrook Vale School and Limehurst Academy.

Lili Tabiner of the Great Central Railway said, "We're preparing to rebuild a section of missing Victorian Railway which will bring together two halves of the Great Central Railway, to create an eighteen mile independent heritage main line. One of the key pieces of infrastructure is building a new bridge over the Midland Main Line at Loughborough. It is a wonderful opportunity to provide students with hands on experience in a major civil engineering project."

The Great Central Railway has worked in partnership with Leicestershire Education Business Company (LEBC) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to design a programme which has given Year 8 students first-hand experience of the knowledge and skills needed to construct the new railway connection.

Following an information evening for Loughborough schools and STEM Ambassadors, staff at Woodbrook Vale School and Limehurst Academy committed to a summer programme of activities, talks and site visits relating to this exciting civil engineering project to build a brand new bridge to carry steam trains. The twelve-week programme has inspired twenty-four young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) through engagements with STEM Ambassadors from civil engineering, geology, metallurgy, project management, environmental health, planning and railway operations.

Students have taken part in classroom activities and site visits to the Great Central Railway to find out about how corrosion effects metal structures and methods of restoration for heritage bridges; how noise from construction sites is monitored and controlled; taken soil samples to determine the ground conditions best suited to support large concrete and metal bridge structures; and the economic benefits that a regeneration project brings to the town of Loughborough.

Vanessa Breward from LEBC said "It has been a delight to work with GCR on this project and the positive feedback from the students is testament to the commitment from our volunteers who gave the project such significant impact. I'm sure the students will remember the experience for many, many years and will share the story with their own children in the future. What a legacy!"

STEM Ambassadors and volunteers from FJD, ARUP, Pick Everard, AMCO, Mott MacDonald, Charnwood Borough Council and Network Rail have inspired students to study STEM subjects and to consider careers in STEM to become the engineers of the future!

To celebrate the Bridge to the Future STEM Project 2016, students spent the day at Loughborough University's School of Civil Engineering, on Friday 1st July, where they presented their project work to VIPs from local government, ICE and those who supported them throughout the summer term. They also participated in a project management challenge designed around railway works and possessions. Following this the students constructed ICE's East Midlands Bridge to Schools cable stayed twelve-metre bridge guided by Jamie Mackay, ICE East Midlands Bridge to Schools Co-ordinator and representatives from bridge sponsors, Eurovia.

Sir John Armitt, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough, joined the students in the morning to hear how they have enjoyed this real-time regeneration project and discuss the many rewarding careers which are open to students of STEM subjects.

Sir John Armitt presents the winners of 'The Big Bridge Building Challenge' award to Woodbrook Vale School.
Sir John Armitt presents the winners of 'The Big Bridge Building Challenge' award to Woodbrook Vale School.

Molly McKenzie, ICE East Midlands Regional Director, said "This project is a great example of how our civil engineering heritage can combine with modern practices to bring benefits to today's communities. It is an exciting opportunity to showcase the diversity of civil engineering and inspire our next generation of engineers. The students have shown great enthusiasm in explaining their designs and ideas and should be proud of their achievements."

Lili concluded, "We're delighted at the GCR that this project is already paying back to the area, before a train has even run. Our contractors made a real life start on preparing for the main line bridge earlier this year and construction will continue soon. We're determined to allow students to follow the process from start to finish. How often might they get to study the construction of a railway, in their town close up? With rail rising up the national agenda, we're proving steam engines and heritage still have a part to play."

Great Central Railway PLC

Voted number 12 on the list of the 50 greatest railway journeys in the world the Great Central Railway is the UK's only double track, main line heritage railway. It's the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other - just as it was when steam ruled the rails. The preserved railway is manned by around 600 volunteers and a small team of permanent staff. Around 130,000 visitors a year come to the railway from all over the world.

Great Central Railway (Nottingham) Ltd

The Great Central Railway - Nottingham offers 10 miles of heritage railway running through the beautiful scenery of South Nottinghamshire and North-West Leicestershire. Services are pulled by our heritage Steam or Diesel locomotives, recreating the experience of train travel from a time when it was more than just a means to get from one place to another.