The National Railway Museum wanted to try and help any aspiring young engineers discover their passion for the railway; so they decided to create something that could be fun, yet at the same time educational. The plan was to do a track-laying exercise that was suitable for children but entirely accurate linking it to the modern railway. After discovering that no existing product existed which matched the NRM’s needs they turned to our company Paragon Creative Ltd.
Paragon’s brief was to provide an exhibit, which would allow and encourage children, and those with learning difficulties, to assemble a stretch of standard gauge railway track and then test it with a small, railway ‘Test Truck’. The interactive had to be as faithful to real-world railway tracks as possible and follow the same assembly techniques in order to explain how the rail network’s permanent way is constructed. The interactive was to be built to a half scale and with the help of the museum’s fantastic staff be both suitable and safe for the target audience to use successfully.
One of the hardest things about our job is designing something that is both easy to maintain by staff and durable enough to withstand vigorous and sustained use by children. There is a saying in our business that if something can be assembled by a professional in a week, it can be dismantled by children in minutes, so we knew we had our work cut out.
The key to success for any project is choosing the right materials and construction technique. So, drawing on our years of experience and working closely with the client, we created a set of 3D CAD drawings of the exhibit which took into consideration both the requirements of the museum’s design brief along with a strategy to build the exhibit as efficiently and effectively as possible. Our solution was to provide a set of ‘kit-parts’ that are easily slotted together, are lightweight yet sturdy enough to take even the most robust use, require minimal maintenance and, above all, look like a real railway track!
For the construction of the track components we used High Density Polyethylene (HDPE); a material that through its widespread use in the construction of children’s playground equipment, we know will be more than up to the task! All of the components were cut out using our CNC router to ensure accuracy before being finished by hand to clean up and round off all the edges prior to being fitted together.
We designed and produced the ‘Test Truck’ in the same way, again being careful to ensure the finished item was as durable and maintenance free as possible, especially around the axles & wheels which need to run smoothly in order to roll well along the rails. Again, HDPE was the solution as not only is it an incredibly tough and resilient plastic. It also has very low friction and wearing properties and therefore requires no lubrication, thus keeping the maintenance down. After rigorous testing in our workshops the exhibit was ready to be installed at the museum.
Our Client: National Railway Museum
Designed by: Paragon Creative