ON JANUARY 17 track maintenance contractor Wiebe & Swietelsky took delivery of what its supplier claims to be the largest track renewal and formation rehabilitation machine in the world. Within two weeks the company had set it to work on a 2 km section of track near Bonn in Germany. Built by Plasser & Theurer of Austria, the 140m long RPM2002 is designed to perform all the work necessary for formation rehabilitation in a single operation, treating up to 100m/h.

Its ability to recycle ballast helps to tackle the logistics problem of removing huge quantities of spoil and supplying equivalent volumes of new ballast to the worksite. ’This is the most valuable competitive edge in putting the RPM to work’, said Ing Herman Stix, co-manager of the joint venture of Germany’s Wiebe and Austria’s Swietelsky that was specially formed to purchase and operate the machine, which has a price tag of around ASch200m. By recycling the ballast, around 250 tonnes of stone can be saved for every 100m of track refurbished.

A total of 29 axles support the seven vehicles of the 560 tonne machine: fuel tank; tamping unit; satellite sleeper tamping unit; ballast and formation undercutter including sub-grade sand insertion unit; a Wiebe-designed star screen clay removal and ballast pre-cleaning plant; recycling machine including crusher plant and screens, prime mover and hydraulic plant. Spoil is moved forward to wagons at the head of the train, while fresh ballast is obtained from vehicles at the rear.

The installed power of 2467 kW allows the RPM2002 to run at 20 km/h in self-propelled mode. The machine can excavate formations between 4·05 and 6·60m wide to a depth of 1·2m below rail level, accommodating up to 160mm of superelevation. Restricting the length of opened formation to 7m provides a high degree of safety on adjacent tracks.

The machine can insert geotextiles prior to placing a formation protection layer up to 300mm deep, consolidated to 95 to 100 % Proctor density. The maximum depth of sand and gravel is 500mm and the deepest ballast layer is 300mm. The manufacturer says traffic can be resumed on the rehabilitated section at 70 km/h.

Ing Rainer Wenty of Plasser & Theurer said ’we can look forward to a great demand for rehabilitation in Europe as we seek to run higher speed trains on 19th century tracks that are not fit for the load.’ The company expects considerable demand in Eastern Europe as railways seek to bring track and operating standards up to the same level as in Western Europe. Last year the firm supplied a machine almost as large as the RPM2002 to Polish State Railways.