SNOW OR SUNSHINE can be produced at will in the climate chamber at Wien-Arsenal, where rolling stock of all kinds is sent to check its performance in extreme weather conditions. Built in 1960 mainly to serve the research arm of the UIC, the test centre was refurbished in 1977. It is now in great demand as a wave of fresh rolling stock designs comes off Europe’s production lines. Many of the new trains are multiple-units or fixed formations, which cannot be easily accommodated at the present site. To cope with this and to cut the cost of maintaining specialised equipment, Wien-Arsenal is being reconstructed at a cost of around ASch800m.

Centrepiece of the rebuilt site in Wien Floridsdorf will be two climate chambers that can be combined to form a single 100m long structure. This will double as a wind tunnel in which air speeds of up to 300 km/h can be generated. Replacing the present 26m long chamber, it will be large enough to house three-car trainsets without uncoupling. The new structure will be 6m wide and high, compared with the present width of 4·5m and height of 4·9m; most European double-deck coaches should fit easily inside.

Wien-Arsenal’s existing facilities are well used. While full bookings ensure that the annual ASch25m of fixed costs and up to ASch13m in variable costs are covered, climate chamber customers sometimes have to wait up to 12 months before their vehicles can be tested. The twin configuration will lift availability as different trials can be conducted simultaneously.

The tandem arrangement will also permit rapid sequential tests under different conditions. One test is the simulation of thermal shock as vehicles enter tunnels. For example, during trials with a British freight locomotive it was impossible to avoid a 15min delay as the temperature was adjusted from -25°C to +40°C. The new arrangement will allow units to be moved rapidly from one chamber into the next.

The ambient temperature range in the new chambers will be increased. The range now stretches from -50°C to +50°C; it will become -55°C to +60°C. A solar radiation field will be provided over the full length of the tunnel, compared with the present 23·1m.

Around 70% of testing at Arsenal is undertaken for the European Railway Research Institute, the UIC’s research subsidiary. Other work arises from contracts with UIC members and third parties. These include Siemens SGP, whose Wien factory supplies rapid transit cars to metro operators worldwide.

To cater for a full range of main line and metro cars, the rebuilt test centre will have a wider range of power supplies. At present some supplies have to be jury-rigged from the adjacent Arsenal electrical research station.

A third of the cost of the rebuild has been obtained in direct grants from the Austrian government and the city of Wien, and the balance from loans and credits from banks and institutions. The reconstruction project falls in the public sector, but the site will be operated by a consortium of public and private interests, comprising Railtec Arsenal, the UIC, Adtranz, Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens, Ansaldobreda and Firema.

Key facts

n Twin climate chambers

n Combined length 100m, and able to take double-deck stock

n Simulation of thermal shock by moving between chambers

n Available temperature range to be increased to -55