Home People Trains, Mountains, Gravity and Adhesion

Trains, Mountains, Gravity and Adhesion

Over 150 guests from railway academia and industry gathered at the University of Birmingham recently for Professor Felix Schmid’s Inaugural Lecture, ‘Can railways cheat adhesion and triumph over gravity?’

Born in Switzerland, Felix established himself in railway Research and Education at the University of Sheffield in 1994. He moved to the University of Birmingham in 2005.

Until summer 2011, he was Associate Professor in Railway Systems Engineering at the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education (BCRRE).

At Sheffield, he created the MSc in Railway Systems Engineering. When the programme moved to Birmingham, the title was lengthened to include ‘and Integration’, reflecting the systems approach adopted at Birmingham.

Over 400 postgraduates from around the world have completed the programme over the past 17 years. And more than 100 are currently registered on the different versions.

Full Professorship

Felix’ research interests include railway capacity, human factors, and organisation in safety-critical businesses. This Inaugural Lecture marks his transition to a full professorship and is a further achievement in his extensive academic career.

Felix received a warm introduction from Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor John Heath, who provided a biographical history of the speaker. In his hour-long lecture Felix offered a theoretical and practical insight into the effects of gravity and adhesion on the railways.

Overcoming challenging gradients

Felix illustrated both conventional and less conventional systems conceived and employed over the years for overcoming challenging gradients in railways. With his strong sense of humour, imagination, storytelling ability, cultural knowledge and anecdotes, Felix kept the audience engaged and entertained throughout the complex and niche lecture.

Professor Richard Williams, Head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, brought the occasion to a fitting end by warmly thanking Felix and admitting to be a member of the Trevithick society himself. The closing speech was followed by a wave of applause for Felix, from an audience who will forever remember the locomotive axle arrangement called “B0zz B0zz”.

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education is home to the largest railway multidisciplinary research group in the UK and is involved in a wide range of activities that are funded by public and private sources.

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