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An unusual year for the new Chair to pick up the mantel of running the Society, but RailSoc has ridden the pandemic well. Richard Pengelly explains what the Society has been up to this autumn.

As RailSoc heads into its fourth year, and for the first time with a different person in the Chair, it’s been a challenging time. Before the year had even started the committee got to work to produce a series of adverts to entice the joining freshers. I’m glad to say that from these we’ve had more than a few freshers sign up to the Society, whose support is greatly appreciated.

We kicked off the term with our now-traditional guided walk along the canal and railway next to the University – only this time in virtual form! The Chair led an audio-visual Zoom presentation that replicated a trip along the canal, explaining the historical background and points of interest to see. It had the added advantage of keeping us out of the rainy weather!

irtual rail and canal tour

Our next event was a West Midlands-themed railway quiz. Some impressive knowledge was shown by members old and new! The Catchphrase-style round was particularly popular and gave the Chair a chance to subject us all to some bad wordplay. See if you can guess the stations below (answers are at the bottom of this article)!

catchphrase quiz

In October we held a very successful Q&A as part of the new Virtual EPS Societies Fair. We even had six new members join within minutes!

Anxious to maintain the links set up last year, in December RailSoc hosted an online inter-university quiz with transport and railway societies from Aston, Cambridge, Imperial College London and Loughborough Universities. Each provided their own round of challenging brainteasers on a different theme, including a transport-based musical round! Competition was fierce but friendly and it was great to meet people from other universities with a shared interest. I hope we can meet them all in person in the New Year.

Finally came the first in our programme of industrial talks. Andrew Pennington, Head of Planning, and Chris Wallace, Training & Standards Manager had come to speak to us (again on Zoom) from the Train Planning Unit of South Western Railway. Mr Pennington provided an enlightening talk on the difficulties and opportunities provided by operating train services during times of uncertainty. This included the Covid-19 pandemic, but Andrew has also worked through major rail strikes and financial uncertainty, and we learned how these all impact the service planning process. Chris Wallace discussed SWR’s successful train planning graduate scheme – here's hoping that we’ll see some RailSoc alumni planning the train services of the future! I’m pleased to say this was also the most popular event in the Society’s history, with 27 attendees.

virtual south west rail talk

So despite the challenges to the Society during what has been an unusual year, I think RailSoc has adapted well and continues going strong. I appreciate all of our members’ engagement with the events we’ve run. I hope our next term is just as successful – the committee’s got plenty of exciting ideas for what could be in store!

Richard Pengelly
RailSoc Chair

Quiz answers: 1 – Five Ways. 2 – Longbridge. 3 – Walsall. 4 – Jewellery Quarter.

To find out more about RailSoc visit their website www.birmingham.ac.uk/eps/railsoc.

There are 42 student groups in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. To learn more about their projects and activities head to www.birmingham.ac.uk/eps-societies.