Posted on November 23, 2016 by Rolf Behrens, Images by Robert Hack
Railcars from Harsco Rail, powered by mtu PowerPacks, will play a key part in maintaining the world's longest railway tunnel.
Scheduled services are set to commence in December via the world's longest railway tunnel – the 57 km long Gotthard Base Tunnel. The new record-breaking tunnel connects the Swiss cantons of Uri and Ticino and, effectively, northern and southern Europe. To ensure tunnel traffic runs safely and to schedule, Swiss rail operator SBB is procuring new maintenance railcars from Harsco Rail, powered by mtu PowerPacks. These will play a key part in maintaining the tunnel's equipment and track installations. mtu was invited to attend the trial runs which are currently underway, one of the aims of which is to create the perfect union between train and traction system.
“Beautiful!”, says Hagen Kestin with an enthusiastic smile. “Just perfect.” An idyllic panorama swooshes past his window seat, and yet it's not the Bernese Alps in the distance or the nearby Jura foothills which are capturing his attention. Kestin's eyes are fixed on the notebook in front of him, and it's the curve on its graphic display which is making him coo. What looks, to the outsider, like a heart monitor graph or a seismometer during an earth tremor is telling the mtu commissioning specialist all he needs to know: the link between the coach he is sitting in and the mtu PowerPack driving it is a winner. “The engine is doing exactly what it should do, and so is the railcar,” says Kestin: “Beautiful.” This moment is the culmination of a long working day for Hagen Kestin and his colleagues and, at the same time, a major prerequisite for the future smooth running of another link: the new Transalpine Rail Link and the jewel in its crown, the Gotthard Base Tunnel.
The engine is doing exactly what it should do, and so is the railcar. Beautiful!
Later, during the wash-up session at the SBB works in Biel, Engineering Project Manager Peter Gerber will talk of the “best day” of the trials (and not in reference to the weather or the views either). Nevertheless, the technicians still have quite a bit of work ahead of them, with more trial runs the very next day. Shortly after that, it's off to Lötschberg mountain to test the railcar's instrumentation and control system, after which it will see the inside of the Gotthard Tunnel for the first time. The temperatures there are very different to today. So Hagen Kestin will once again be perched atop the mtu PowerPack, opening his laptop and continuing the search for sweet spots. His quest for the perfect union between railcar and PowerPack is not over yet.