Our exclusive annual learning event

Practical Trackwork Challenge

Ultimate knowledge share

The PWI Practical Trackwork Challenge (PTC) is a carefully curated learning experience that allows people who work in the industry, but who have little or no site knowledge, to experience working in a live railway environment in a safe and controlled manner. It is an exclusive benefit for PWI Corporate Members and provides a superb opportunity for their nominated staff, perhaps new to the rail industry or lacking practical experience, to see the “coal face” of track engineering. Participants are split into two groups and have the opportunity to undertake all of the tasks involved with track renewals under expert supervision. The challenge is non-competitive and our last PTC welcomed 40 delegates, including a site agent, possession planners, resource planners, a PhD qualified geotechnical engineer, a civils supervisor, track designers and a signalling engineer.

This is also a fabulous opportunity for our Corporate Members to provide practical support in the form of more experienced staff to oversee the exercise and operate the larger plant deployed on the challenge site. Staff gain experience in a protected environment, and it allows participants to work with small and large plant in a safe, supervised setting. Delegates also get to build their networks and put theory into action, which is superb for continuing professional development. Last but not least, the PTC is a special opportunity to give back to our community of heritage railways.

It was brilliant to be able to use tools and be in an environment where you had time to ask as many questions as possible, but it was also good to have a bit of pressure on the second day to appreciate the situation of needing to hand back after a possession. It was invaluable to meet people with a huge range of experience and knowledge. Leading experts of the industry took a lot of time and effort to train us. It was great to know that they are willing to share their knowledge. Thank you.

Delegate feedback

"I found the event to be very useful for my professional development and I met some great people!"

Delegate feedback

Churnet Valley Railway

The latest challenge

The third Practical Trackwork Challenge was held on the Churnet Valley Railway on 9 and 10 October 2019 and consisted of relaying 250 m of track near Leek Brook Station to complete stage 1 of the preservation railway’s project to “Reconnect Leek”. This first stretch of track was funded by Churnet Valley Railway and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.

Support from our industry friends

Special thanks

As the tamper finished its pass of the track just after 3 o’clock on last afternoon, the challenge was complete. Our teams had completed a 250 m plain line renewal in two day shifts and learned lots of new skills. PWI CEO Stephen Barber closed the challenge by presenting certificates to all 23 delegates.

The PWI Practical Trackwork Challenge is a carefully curated learning experience that would not be possible without the support of our industry friends. We are very grateful to Churnet Valley Railway for hosting, and to the many companies who gave their time, resources and staff, including TXM Plant, Quattro Plant, Cleshar, TFL, Network Rail, AECOM, RAIB, VolkerRail, SNC Lavalin, Balfour Beatty, Swietelsky Babcock Rail, Story Contracting, ORR, Costain, Stobart Rail, Jacobs and Shannon Rail.

We would also like to extend a special thanks to Roy Hickman and PWI Honorary Life Member Malcolm Pearce whose commitment to delivering a comprehensive, safe and efficient challenge was immense, and thank you to all the young professionals who participated. We hope that you enjoyed the experience and we look forward to seeing you out and about on track again soon!

Get involved

Enquire to be a potential host or supporting company at the next Practical Track Challenge

Young Engineers Section

Running alongside our local Sections is the PWI Young Engineers Section which is a virtual group for our younger Members, giving them a collective voice and focal point. This is a LinkedIn group which you can join as well as your Local Section.