Laying the tracks for the engineers of tomorrow


Here in Derby, we have a rich history with railways and engineering. Even today, big names such as Bombardier call Derby their home, carrying on the long tradition of railway engineering within our great city.

To celebrate Derby’s rail heritage and educate students from across the region about its importance, showcase event ‘iRail’ rolled into town. And given our wonderful building’s own personal story with the railways, it was only fitting that it was held at our historic venue.


Where it all began for railways in the East Midlands

When our building was still young back in 1938 it was a dedicated training facility for the rail industry, the first of its kind at that time. At one stage, The British Rail Training College as it was known then was home to some 50 railway operatives and signallers, giving them a central hub from where they could learn and work.

Designed by architect William H. Hamlet, the College cost around £50,000 to build and trained both the Royal Engineers and The Railway Engineering School for the next 20 years. How times have changed!


Bringing the next generation of rail engineers together

iRail, or Innovative Rail to give its full name, is a successful initiative ran by Learn by Design and Rail Forum, which aims to engage students through practical science and technological workshops. As railway engineering is still very much a part of Derby’s identity, the organisers hoped that iRail would inspire the new crop of experts and engineers to take advantage of the various opportunities open to them.

Just like back in 1938, students were back at our Centre to learn about how the railway network is kept operational and the role they could play in making this happen. They even had the chance to test their problem-solving skills and technical know-how by resolving a railway engineering issue, with representatives from some of the most well-known companies close by.

After the event, we were delighted to receive this comment from the assistant head teacher of one of the schools which attended:

“We all felt the day was amazing, from the visits to the employers the students got to work with. A great opportunity to give ideas a go, where no one judged or criticised, just encouraged and inspired the students to tackle the problem any way they wanted.

“Everyone we met wanted the students to really consider a future in the rail industry and the day certainly dispelled any myths about the kind of work it involved.”


Proud to be part of Derby’s railway future

It was an absolute privilege to host iRail and be involved in giving the students their first taste of a career in the railway engineering sector. Derby’s long history with the railways should be celebrated and continued, and helping to make this happen was a fantastic experience for the whole team at The Derby Conference Centre.

We’d like to wish all the students who attended the iRail event the best of luck with their futures. You never know, they could soon be working on a railway line near you.


If you have an event that you’d like to bring to the Derby community, get in touch with our expert events team, or call them on 01332 861842.