Established in 1985 by the Watford Conference of European Railway Architects and Designers, the launch of the Brunel Awards Competition marked the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Great Western Railway in England. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II presented the first edition of the awards in Bristol.
In 1987 the second competition was held by the Austrian Federal Railways to mark their 150th anniversary.
In 1989 the Netherlands Railways celebrated 150 years of Dutch railways in 1989 by holding the third Brunel competition.
In 1992 the Spanish Railways (RENFE) celebrated its 50th anniversary in conjunction with Spain’s hosting of the Olympic Games, the Seville World Exposition, and the opening of the Madrid-Seville high speed line. Her Majesty Queen Sofia presented the awards.
In 1994, the Brunel Awards ceremony was held in the USA, hosted by the Foundation for Railway and Transportation Excellence FoRTE).
In 1996, the sixth Brunel Awards ceremony was organised by the Danish State Railways (DSB) in Copenhagen.
In 1998, the seventh Brunel Awards ceremony was held in Madrid and organised by Spanish Railways (RENFE) to celebrate 150 years of railways in Spain.
In 2001, the eighth Brunel Awards ceremony was held in Paris and organised by French Railways (SNCF) to coincide with the opening of the new TGV Mediterranean high speed line.
In 2005, the nineth Brunel Awards ceremony was held in Copenhagen and organised by Danish State Railways (DSB).
In 2008, the tenth Brunel Awards ceremony was held in Vienna and organised by Austrian State Railways (ÖBB).
In 2011, the eleventh Brunel Awards ceremony was held in Washington, DC and organised by the Center for Industrial Design in Transportation (C4IDT).
In 2014, the twelfth Brunel Awards ceremony was held in Amsterdam and organised by ProRail and Dutch Railways (NS) on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Amsterdam Central Station and 175 years of rail in the Netherlands.
- 2014 – Amsterdam
- 2011 – Washington
- 2008 – Vienna
- 2005 – Copenhagen