Rail Engineer • January 2017
Well that was Interesting!
arly December is the traditional time for the Rail Exec Club, the railway industry’s leading networking organisation for executives and professionals, to hold its Gala Dinner. Which is why representatives from 102 organisations from around the industry gathered at Derby’s iconic Roundhouse a few weeks before Christmas. Everyone was there, directors and managers from four train manufacturers, three government departments, four institutions, several train operators, numerous infrastructure contractors, many component manufacturers and the rail regulator. All that were missing were the partridge and the pear tree, although they might have been seen near the bar at the drinks reception. The entertainment started as soon as guests entered the building. Dancers dressed as fairies, or maybe elves, but anyway in keeping with the ‘Winter Wonderland’ theme for the evening, performed while diners gathered, met up with their parties and networked with industry colleagues. Reception hosts Ford & Stanley put on a great show that got the evening off to an excellent start. After a glass or two of ‘orange juice’, the sellout crowd slowly filtered past the seating plan to find their tables in the semi-darkened main hall. Many were members of the Rail Exec Club, regular attendees at luncheon events in London
and the Midlands, while others were hopeful of taking home one of the Most Interesting Awards that would be presented later. It wasn’t long before Jon Shaw, the evening’s host, welcomed everyone to the “fabulous building” that is George Stephenson’s roundhouse, first built in 1836 and the oldest surviving structure of its type in the world. It’s a building that Jon knows well. Before he became chief engineer at Network Rail, he was vice president and head of engineering at Bombardier Transportation, a short walk away and another of the event’s sponsors. But now the old engine shed was transformed into a truly spectacular setting for the evening. Beautifully decorated tables surrounded a central dance floor with a small stage behind. However, it was impossible to forget the heritage of the wonderful old building. Overhead cranes hung off brackets above diners’ heads and, in places, even the original rails were visible, still embedded in the floor.
After Jon had welcomed everyone and set the scene, dinner was brought on. A good meal in its own right, it was somewhat overshadowed by the spectacular aerial show that entertained diners. Acrobats and dancers dressed as birds and butterflies performed breath-taking manoeuvres using ropes and sashes, keeping diners spellbound. What a contrast to the slightly blue comedians more often rolled out for other industry events.
What is Most Interesting? Seemingly all too soon, the last session of aerobatics was over, the coffee was drunk, and it was time for the awards. The Most Interesting Awards, or MIs for short, are industry awards with a difference. While companies normally have to enter to be considered, taking up marketing department time and limiting entries to those companies with promotional budgets, no one can enter the MI Awards. Or, to put it another way, everyone has already entered!
Rail Engineer - Issue 147 - January 2017