Author: Ben Mitchell -
Tucked away by the river, in one of the UK’s two major financial centres, you would be forgiven for not expecting Canary Wharf to be home to nearly 1,300 engineers, working for Transport for London to keep London moving.
My name is Ben and, halfway through the first of my three, four-month, placements within TFL, I am currently working with the AOS engineering team, focusing on Rolling Stock (the trains themselves). The AOS, Asset & Operational Support, team provide engineering support for London Underground Rolling Stock. This covers emergency response, large maintenance programmes, and long-term reliability improvements.
So far I have mainly been involved with the reliability improvements, with a couple design projects thrown in for good measure. I’ll go into these in more detail in future posts, and this will be more of an introductory blog.
Engineering with a view
Starting in mid-September, it was a longer summer for me than many of those out on placement this year, with some having two months of work experience under their belts before I began the first of my two weeks of training we had to go through before we could begin actual work.
Previous grads have described these introductory weeks as death by PowerPoint, with presentations ranging from the experiences of previous grads to the various trade unions we will encounter crammed into the first week. Integrated with all of those on the Grad Scheme, the out of office events were the highlight of the first two weeks.
Networking is a term that you will hear bandied about just about everywhere nowadays, and TFL is no exception. A networking event held at the Transport Museum in Covent Garden gave us a chance early on to meet our placement sponsors and mentors, as well as hear from Mike Brown, commissioner of the company. This was followed by the one and only open bar TFL holds each year, providing a great opportunity to get to know the other students on placement, whilst ensuring you weren’t making too much of a fool of yourself in front of the various senior staff in attendance!
A visit to Mayor’s Questions proved surprisingly eventful, with rowdy Black cab drivers forcing the Chair to clear the chamber, as well as call in the Riot Police. Escorted out of a back exit, covering anything that would identify us as an employee of TfL, this was not how I envisaged my first few days of work to pan out. The remaining week of induction events was relatively dull in comparison, but served the useful purpose of both introducing us to the inner workings of the company, and allowing us to settle into our new routine before the work began.
As I mentioned earlier, the Year in Industry with TFL is split into three individual parts, with the idea of allowing us to see as much of the company as possible within our time here. Once I have completed my time here within rolling stock I will spend four months working within stations & infrastructure, and then four within a track department, getting a more hands on experience to the engineering here.
Once the introductions were over, and most of the names promptly forgotten, I sat down with my manager and a couple of members of the team to go through my initial projects. My first long term project involved issuing a Change to Rolling Stock, CRS, along with the calculations and proof required before it can be authorised by the fleet manager, and the procedure implemented onto the network.
My other major project involves designing a bracket to mount a data logger within the equipment box that hangs below the train.
Finished by five every day, I find myself with a lot more spare time than I had back in Bath. This has given me the chance to attend a couple of talks at the IMechE in the last few weeks, finally making use of that free membership we all have. Whilst not sounding like the most gripping of subjects, the most recent, ‘The Art of Boarding and Alighting: Designing Trains and Stations to Ensure Safety and Efficiency’ gave a surprisingly interesting overview of the engineering behind maximising the efficiency of the metro system, as well as the psychology behind the design choices involved.
As part of our placement objectives set by the company we have been encouraged to take part in a number of STEM events with local schools, ‘inspiring the next generation of engineers.’ The morning involved assisting with a ‘braking eggsperiment,’ I was a fan as soon as I saw the pun, an activity that involved the kids, a mix of years 8 & 9, safely transporting an egg down a constructed track, stopping it safely at the platform.
The afternoon was spent being interviewed by groups of 5 or 6, a surprisingly tough activity when they run out of questions 5 minutes into a 15 minute interview, leaving me to freestyle on an industry I had spent all of 5 weeks in at the time. Whilst I may not have convinced all the doubters to turn to a life of engineering, I had a great time, and so did the kids judging by the feedback after the event.
As this is intended to be a monthly blog this will be my one and only until the new year so, until then, have a happy Christmas and New Year.