INTRO: Increasing use of electronics has paved the way for suppliers of maintenance equipment to improve track quality and availability, and at the same time reduce costs. David Burns previews the VDEI exhibition taking place in Wien from June 1 to 3

IN COMPARISON with many other industries, the railway business is small but highly specialised. The world market for all material and equipment associated with track is about US$10bn a year, which is about half what the US population spends on pizza. It is the market size and specialised nature of permanent way that makes large exhibitions important. The tri-annual show of track maintenance machinery organised by the Association of German Railway Engineers (VDEI), being held on June 1-3 in Wien, is the largest and most international of the world’s permanent way trade shows. The international aspect of the exhibition is enhanced by a significant increase in the participation of North America’s supply industry.

Looking at the expected exhibits, some interesting trends emerge. Apart from the obvious drive to lift quality and reduce cost, the most prominent trend is increased use of electronics and lasers. Several exhibits will feature unattended accurate measurement of track geometry. This has been achieved by mounting electronic devices on locomotives, passenger coaches or track machines, other than geometry cars, so that the track can be inspected frequently and at limited cost.

Many new materials and equipment types are being exhibited which, if used, will reduce the cost of a specific aspect of track maintenance or reduce possession requirements. In general, these will have a limited impact on the total cost or even less on the overall cost of operations. But there are some which have the potential to produce major benefits for the railway’s bottom line.

One example is to be found at the interface between track and train, the wheel. Although wheels inflict damage upon track, civil engineers are seldom involved with their design or maintenance. A new laser device will be exhibited that measures wheel profiles at wagon speeds of up to 95 km/h, giving civil engineers the means to monitor wheels that run over their track. Ensuring a good wheel profile reduces the cost of track maintenance, noise and energy consumption, and improves safety.

The largest cost component of track surfacing is ballast - the material itself and its transport and distribution. A significant reduction in the amount of track to be surfaced will have a major impact on the cost of maintaining line, and should increase track availability. Major savings are promised by technology that enables a tamper to select only those sleepers that require re-alignment or re-levelling, and then calculate how much to overlift the sleeper so that after the initial settlement, the track is level.

A brief description of some of the products and equipment being exhibited at VDEI follows.

Track strength and geometry

Plasser & Theurer offers a comprehensive range of track geometry recording cars. It will have on display the EM130 track and overhead recording car which is capable of recording a complete range of track characteristics, including rail profile, at speeds up to 120 km/h. The EM250 is a 250 km/h recording car owned by Austrian Federal Railways. It has been recently upgraded to computer network technology, and features an inertial measuring system that uses a laser gyroscope stabilised with the aid of GPS. Another type of track geometry car, the EMSAT120 survey car determines at a speed of 2·5 km/h the absolute location and geometry of track to within 1mm. This eliminates the need for manual ground surveys and fixed track locators.

Matisa has developed the Palas track geometry measurement system that is capable of measuring to an absolute location. It will be demonstrated as installed on a B50 tamper. Matisa will also be exhibiting the MPV9 medium-performance measuring vehicle and the RT Toolbox, a software package for designing optimum track layout given a series of fixed points and the train speed. Data can be transferred to the on-board computers of tampers.

Mer Mec produces the MM Roger 1000 track geometry and rail profile measurement vehicle, which is self-propelled to 160 km/h and can be towed at up to 200 km/h.

Using three interactive real-time computers, E H Reeves & Associates will demonstrate the Laserail geometry and rail profile system. This is sufficiently compact to be hung from a locomotive bogie.

Technology that was developed initially as a research tool to determine the lateral strength of track is now commercially available to plan short and medium-term maintenance needs. The Trackstar from Holland is a road/rail vehicle that measures lateral track strength and has full track geometry.

Subgrade and ballast

A recent innovation is the development of machines that remove poor quality sub-ballast and substructure material, mix it with an appropriate binding agent and finally reinstall and compact it. The Waran soil-conditioning system from Leonhard Weiss undertakes this process within one unit, and the RPM2002 from Plasser & Theurer is in principle similar.

To raise bearing capacity, a common approach is to insert a geotextile or other material between the ballast and subgrade. The Plasser & Theurer AHM800R-PL performs this task in one operation.

Also from Plasser, the RM80U is the latest model of the RM80 ballast cleaner series that the company has produced since 1980. It is capable of cleaning ballast under plain line and under special trackwork. With a wide range of attachments, it is also capable of subgrade rehabilitation including sand blanketing, inserting plastic sheets or insulation, and cement reinforcement.

Most cleaners remove ballast from the shoulders and under the track using a large chain. The Kershaw KBC750 has two large bucket wheels to handle the majority of the ballast, at a rate of up to 750m3/h.

During ballast cleaning it is often impossible to deposit spoil on the shoulder. The Plasser & Theurer MFS100 material conveyor and hopper (wagon) units have been specifically designed to receive spoil directly from a ballast cleaner. After being hauled to a disposal site, the hoppers can then self-unload. Plasser & Theurer’s BLS2000 loading station picks up material from the shoulder or from drainage ditches using a bucket wheel, and loads it into MFS100 hoppers.

The basic principle in selecting a ballast regulator is that it should be matched in capacity to the tamper and, for this purpose, Kershaw has a range of machines. Some manufacturers have developed these regulators into very sophisticated machines, such as the AFM2000 automatic track finishing machine from Plasser & Theurer. At up to 5 km/h, the machine measures the ballast section against a required profile, and then moves or picks up and redistributes ballast accordingly. It also has track stabilisation and geometry measurement capability.

A less automated ballast regulator, the Plasser & Theurer USP 2000 SWS, is suitable for plain track and switches. It also has hopper storage allowing surplus ballast from one location to be transported for use where additional ballast is required.

Track and switch renewal

Reflecting continued renewal machine development, the Matisa P95 can replace rail and sleepers at a rate of up to 750m/h. Fairmont Tamper and Plasser & Theurer also offer this type of machine.

Because of their size, transporting complete switches within the loading gauge can be a complex problem. The Matisa WTM has been developed specifically for this purpose, and can accommodate sleepers up to 4·8m long. The Desec TL50 Tracklayer is a radio-controlled machine for replacing turnouts. The companion panel wagon can handle 5m sleepers and track panels up to 32m long.

Timber sleeper replacement

With the increased participation of North American suppliers at this year’s exhibition, there will be several manufacturers showing the various specialised machines used for selective sleeper removal and replacement. These include Fairmont Tamper and Kershaw, both exhibiting sleeper renewal and installation machines, Nordco (spike driving and removal, sleeper adzing and boring) and Racine (installation, maintenance and removal of anchors).

Track levelling and lining

Plasser & Theurer offers a comprehensive range of tampers, illustrated by the three machines on display. The 09-3X Tamping Express is a continuous action unit that tamps three sleepers at a time. It has a proven working speed of up to 2200m/h, ideal for applications where track occupancy is at a premium. The Unimat 08-4754S is a high-capacity conventional tamper with three-rail lifting, enabling it to tamp switches on concrete sleepers. For spot repairs, the Unimat Sprinter 08-275 has built-in track geometry measurement capability to detect faults and undertake necessary rectification.

Matisa will be exhibiting three tampers from its extensive range. The high-capacity B50 is equipped with the Palas absolute geometry measurement system, and the B45 medium-capacity machine has Nemo optical measurement with a system which has no moving parts. The soundproofed B20AC75 is a lower production range machine. Fairmont Tamper manufactures a range of tampers and will be exhibiting its latest models.

Before the advent of the tamper, track was usually levelled by measured shovel packing, whereby the sleepers were lifted and a measured amount of small stones manually packed under the sleeper. The levelling would leave the track at a height where, after initial settlement, it would be level. The Stoneblower from Pandrol Jackson has completely automated this process.

Dynamic stabilisation allows track to be put back in service after tamping quickly, without imposing a temporary speed restriction. Fairmont Tamper/MTH will exhibit its product in this field. Plasser & Theurer’s AFM2000 finishing machine combines a ballast regulator with a track stabiliser, but takes the technology one step further by continuously measuring and recording the lateral strength of the track to ensure that there are no weak spots.

Exhibiting on the stand of parent companies Mourgeon and Newag, MK Tool will be presenting its full range of tamping tines including specialised designs and ultra wear-resistant models supplied to Plasser & Theurer and Matisa. Wear-resistant plates and teeth for ballast cleaners and undercutters will also be on display, as well as an hydraulic tool for dismantling tines safely and quickly.

Rail grinding

Rail maintenance is continuing to increase in importance. Speno International is exhibiting three different types of grinding machines. The RR40MF2 is a high-capacity 40 stone machine that has a new type of grinding trolley. It can be coupled to a similar grinder and, uniquely, is capable of operating on both standard and 1524mm gauge track. The RR16 M10 is a grinder for switches, with a dust collection system, and the HRR12M1 is specially designed for urban, standard gauge, and 1000mm track. It can also grind Vignoles (flat-bottomed) and grooved rails. A grinder specially designed for metro systems and special trackwork will be exhibited by Fairmont Tamper.

Flaw detection

As rails are the single biggest track investment, it is important to extend their life by finding defects as quickly as possible. There are a number of machines on the market for this purpose, ranging from hand-held devices to one of the largest of all machines available, the Speno International US6-1. While operating at speeds up to 80 km/h, it processes data fast enough to allow the defect to be marked with a paint spray.

To develop a logical rail maintenance programme, the condition of hundreds or thousands of kilometres of track must be measured reliably. This data then has to be processed to determine the most appropriate grinding, cascading, and rail replacement regime.

Speno International’s SM775 rail measurement railcar is capable of measuring rail profile to 0·05mm on about 350 km of track per shift.

E H Reeves & Associates will be exhibiting a vehicle-mounted system as part of its track geometry range. The company will also be demonstrating its hand-held version and a high-precision system for use in rolling mills.

Ever since the introduction of jointed rail, railways have been seeking a non-destructive way of measuring the stress in rails. This is necessary to determine the temperature at which the rail will be stress-free. For this purpose, Vortok International will be introducing Verse, a system developed in conjunction with AEA Technology Rail.

Wheel profile measurement

WheelSpec is a wheel profile measuring system manufactured by E H Reeves & Associates. When installed at the trackside, it measures the complete wheel profile, including flange height, thickness, tread hollow, tread build-up, and wheel-to-wheel gauge. Depending on axle spacing, this is possible for wagon speeds up to 95 km/h.

Rail welding

Mobile flash-butt rail welding heads are basically the same, the primary variations being in the welder controls and the vehicle in which the system is mounted. The Plasser & Theurer APT500 features microprocessor control of the head to optimise the welding process for different types of rail steel and eliminate operator error. It is mounted on a four-axle rail vehicle.

Holland will be exhibiting its range of mobile welding machines, and the Superpuller for in-track welding of rail. Newag will be presenting a propulsion and positioning machine for continuously welded rail.

Railtech International and its US subsidiary Matweld will be exhibiting a range of track tools, including Matweld’s diesel-powered system incorporating generator, compressor, hydraulic tool and welder modules.

Rail fastenings

For track in urban areas and in tunnels, it is becoming more common to use a noise-suppressing type of rail fastening. A recent development from Pandrol is the VIPA system, which utilises the standard ’e’ clip.

Pandrol will also be exhibiting the Vanguard system for reducing noise and vibration, as well as the Fastclip, one of the few systems that can be pre-installed, and Fastclip FD for less demanding locations. The K-Lock to convert K baseplates for resilient fastenings will be introduced at the show.

ContiTech/Clouth has for some time specialised in resilient fastenings for noise and vibration control. It will be exhibiting a range of fastening systems, as well as other products for reducing noise and vibration, such as sub-ballast matting and floating track systems.

Newag will be presenting for the first time a coach-screwing machine based on its Jumbo 2000 road/rail vehicle, capable of installing Vossloh elastic rail fastenings at a rate of up to 1000m/h.


In the field of crane-equipped vehicles, an interesting example is the twin-engined Plasser & Theurer, H-OBW120-4A. A more powerful version is the gangers’ trolley manufactured by Robel. Atlas Weyhausen manufactures a range of road/rail cranes and excavators, including the exhibited model equipped with a computer controlled contact pressure control system which improves on-track stability.

The AC50R road/rail crane from Gottwald has two hydraulically-powered rail bogies, permitting speeds of up to 25 km/h. The GS150.14TR is a heavy-duty tracklaying crane specifically designed to be used under catenary, and is able to work without obstructing adjacent tracks. Its unique feature is a boom which can be telescoped out in either direction, without having to slew the superstructure.

Kirow produces a range of rail- mounted cranes and will present the latest delivery of its top model, the KRC 810 T, which went into operation for Swietelsky, the Austrian contractor in early April. The KRC 810 T has the unique feature that it works under computer control with only one prop set. This offers significant time savings.

Track systems

Infundo has developed a range of track systems where the rail is embedded in a concrete base. These have been used on light rail routes, level crossings on heavy rail, and, in certain specific locations, high-speed lines for operation at up to 300 km/h.

A recent development is the hollow switch sleeper, which houses the tie rods, simplifying tamping. Contec has gone one step further with its EH81-01 P switch machine, which is completely housed in the sleeper. Contec will also be exhibiting a range of bonding connectors and electrification switch gear.

Reducing the friction associated with moving a switch point is the purpose of the Enzesfeld-Caro Metallwerke switch rollers. The rollers are fitted between the sleepers, and thus can be retrofitted to any existing switch.

Swedish Rail System will be exhibiting its Clicomatic rail lubricator for curves and switches, available in nitrogen and electrically-powered versions.

Catenary measurement

On display will be Matisa’s VM500SAB, a high-performance contact wire measurement and catenary maintenance vehicle. E H Reeves’ Laserail contact wire measurement equipment, when used in conjunction with an instrumented pantograph and track geometry equipment, is capable of optically measuring the location and shape of the contact wire at up to 80 km/h. Mer Mec will be exhibiting its contact wire measurement system.

Service vehicles

Zweiweg is well-known for producing a comprehensive range of road/rail vehicles. It will be exhibiting the ZW 100 S shunter, based on the Unimog U1600 and capable of moving trains in excess of 1000 tonnes. The vehicle has been equipped for remote control while in the rail mode, and the train air brake system has been improved. The Robel Type54.22/25 gangers’ trolley is a rail wagon with a crane, but possibly more importantly it is also a locomotive. It can haul a maximum of 2000 tonnes, and can run at 100 km/h.

Newag will be exhibiting its SJ413 road/rail inspection vehicle, developed as an alternative to motorised trolleys, as well as a range of attachments for road/rail excavators including the SWG ballast undercutting and resleepering unit, the AGS tamper and the PM ballast brush and regulator. Swedish Rail System will be exhibiting a range of road/rail vehicles, including the crane-equipped KRB33 recovery unit, the VRB25 workshop vehicle and the multi-purpose FRB25.

Zweiweg will also be exhibiting the ZW100S track-cleaning machine, equipped with a vacuum system that sucks up refuse without removing ballast. A strip 3·4m wide can be cleaned at between 300 and 800m/h. Another approach to keeping the track clean is the ContiTech/Clouth Oil-Ex absorption matting.

Small machines

Several manufacturers of small machines for track maintenance are exhibiting. Robel has a variety of machines, ranging from drilling units to track lifting and slewing equipment. Of particular interest is its new Twinpower twin-spindle wrench. Racine will be exhibiting a new lightweight rail drill and saw. Nordco will show its track screwing and adzing machines.

Matweld will be exhibiting a range of small machines such as drills, spike-pullers and various hydraulic tools. Smaller machines and tools from Swedish Rail System include hydraulic track jacks, belt grinders, track gauges, aluminium trolleys and rail benders.

Safety equipment

Safety is of primary importance and Vortok is exhibiting a range of temporary signboards and safety barriers. To complete the range of machines and equipment is the buffer stop, two models of which will be shown by Rawie. There is the friction buffer, specifically designed to stop a 600 tonne S-Bahn train at 15 km/h in 8 m. It is also exhibiting the UBE (elastomeric) buffer designed for metros and suburban railways.

CAPTION: The Plasser & Theurer AFM 2000 automatic track finishing machine. Ballast profiling, dynamic track stabilisation and track geometry is tackled in one unit

CAPTION: Mer Mec has supplied this Roger 300 self-propelled catenary measuring car, which can operate at up to 80 km/h, to NSB

CAPTION: The Plasser & Theurer AHM 800 R subgrade rehabilitation machine combines fully mechanised insertion of a subgrade protective layer with integrated ballast recycling

CAPTION: The Plasser & Theurer 09-3X continuous action tamper treats three sleepers at once, making it probably the fastest tamper available

CAPTION: The Desec TL 50 Tracklayer can remove and install the largest concrete sleeper switches

CAPTION: The Matisa B 20 series tamper is soundproofed for working in urban environments at night

CAPTION: The WheelSpec profile measuring system from E F Reeves can scan wagons at up to 95 km/h

CAPTION: The Pandrol VIPA double resilient baseplate assembly reduces noise and vibration

CAPTION: To ensure vehicle stability, the Atlas Weyhausen 1604K road/rail excavator features a computerised system for controlling rail contact pressure

CAPTION: The Gottwald GS 150 14 TR track-laying crane is unique in that the boom can be telescoped in either direction without slewing the crane’s superstructure

CAPTION: Mer Mec has supplied an MM250ASG overhead line maintenance vehicle and 36 MM 16T wagons for overhead line installation to Hellenic State Railways

CAPTION: Infundo lawn track minimises visual impact

Track engineers seek cost-saving innovations

As track maintenance specialists and suppliers arrive in Wien for the tri-annual VDEI exhibition on June 1-3, David Burns uncovers some interesting trends in the line-up of exhibits for this specialised but highly significant market. Amongst new ways to improve track quality and availability is an increased use of electronics and lasers, including unattended measurement of track geometry using revenue-earning trains. New materials and equipment offer the potential to cut the cost of maintenance or reduce the length of time for which routes must be closed to allow maintenance work

Recherches d’innovations et d’économies pour les ingénieurs de la voie

Tandis que les spécialistes et fournisseurs de l’entretien des voies arrivent à Vienne pour l’exposition triannuelle de la VDEI, qui se tiendra du 1er au 3 juin, David Burns dévoile quelques tendances intéressantes dans les présentations de ce marché spécialisé, mais hautement significatif. Parmi les nouvelles méthodes pour améliorer la qualité et la fiabilité, notons une utilisation accrue de l’électronique et des rayons lasers, y compris l’emploi de dispositifs de mesures autonomes de la géométrie des voies, installés à bord de trains du service commercial. Les nouveaux matériaux et équipements offrent des perspectives de réduction des coûts d’entretien ou réduisent la durée des interruptions de trafic sur les voies afin de permettre le déroulement des travaux de maintenanceGleisbauer auf der Suche nach kostensenkenden Innovationen

Wenn sich die Experten und Lieferanten für Gleisunterhalt vom 1. bis 3. Juni 1999 in Wien zur alle drei Jahre stattfindenden VDEI-Ausstellung versammeln, deckt David Burns einige interessante Ausstellungs-Trends in diesem spezialisierten aber äusserst wichtigen Markt auf. Unter neuen Methoden zur Verbesserung der Qualität und der Verfügbarkeit des Oberbaus werden in zunehmendem Masse Elektronik und Laser eingesetzt, unter anderem auch Systeme zur unbeaufsichtigten Messung der Gleisgeometrie, welche in Fahrplanzügen eingesetzt werden k