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Testing, testing

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A new exhibition at the National Railway Museum (NRM) promises to bring visitors face-to-face with advanced technologies from major projects such as Crossrail and HS2.

Part of the Year of Engineering campaign, ‘Testing’, which opened to the public in York on October 12, invites people to step inside the laboratories and test stations where new ideas and technologies are put through their paces.

In total there are five themed areas to explore:

  1. The first includes one of the world’s fastest train testing rigs, which is based at the University of Birmingham and is used to test the aerodynamic properties of new high-speed trains. The rig prevents sonic boom from forming when trains enter tunnels by using a large rubber catapult to propel scale models at speeds of up to 170mph.
  2. The second introduces research which enables HS2 engineers to know where to lay track, dig tunnels and build bridges. Before the first piece of track can be laid, ground from depths of up to 100m must be tested to ensure it is sufficiently stable. Visitors will see diamond-tipped drill bits used to collect samples.
  3. The third houses the UK’s first hyperloop prototype, nicknamed Poddy McPodface, which has been developed at the University of Edinburgh. The experimental technology involves transporting pods at extremely high speeds through reduced-pressure tubes using maglev technology.
  4. The fourth features an Elizabeth Line test station. Here visitors will be able to see how every aspect is rigorously tested. Visitors will also discover the ‘science of sitting’ on the Elizabeth Line’s test bench, one of several versions used to create the perfect design.
  5. The fifth area will bring visitors face-to-face with an external replica cab from the Class 800—the UK’s most advanced high-speed train. Built in Newton Aycliffe by Hitachi, the trains are capable of both diesel and electric power and are due to enter service on the East Coast Main Line in 2019.

NRM’s head of interpretation and design Charlotte Kingston said: “Engineers, architects and scientists are pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible to improve how we travel, taking us further, faster and more safely.

“Innovation on the railways doesn’t just happen and we need people to ask big questions and to use their engineering skills to experiment, prototype and find the answer.

“Testing is our first exhibition in almost a year and it has been created in partnership with the rail industry to give visitors a unique snapshot into the rigorous and intensive research and development that goes on behind the scenes.”

The National Railway Museum is open between 10am-6pm. Admission is free to the museum and into Testing, which is open until April 28, 2019.

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