ZEK Kommunal - Author: Patricia Pfister, 30.11.2016
Every day, you could build six Eiffel Towers out of the iron ore mined in the northern Swedish mining area of Kiruna. This equates to 27 million tons of natural reserve per year.
At the end of the 19th century the world's most northerly railway was built to transport this huge volume to northern and southern ports for onward shipment. And it has to be kept free of snow and ice, even in the most adverse weather conditions. Since April the railways north of the Arctic Circle have been kept clear by the ZRR 10000 M snow blower made by the Swiss winter maintenance specialist Zaugg.
From scissors to drawing pins, from magnetic tape to scaffolding and railway carriages. Modern life is inconceivable without iron. Even with the enormous development of thousands of plastics, an industrial society without iron or steel is unimaginable. The search for and extraction of iron ore leads to the deepest jungles of Brazil, to the most remote deserts of Australia and even north of the Arctic Circle. High up in the north of Sweden, about 15 hours by train from Stockholm, lies the largest underground iron ore mine in the world. If you are a user of iron ore in Europe, it's usually Kiruna ore. The Guardian once calculated that you could build six Eiffel towers with the material extracted each day. However, the iron ore deposits at Kiruna and Malmberget could not be used economically until the end of the 19th century when a suitable transport route for the ore was created. The “iron ore railway” partly running north of the Arctic Circle takes its way from the Swedish Luleå to the constantly ice-free port of Narvik in Norway. At 68 ° 26 'north latitude, Narvik station is the northernmost standard gauge railway station in Europe which can be reached by passenger train.
27 million tonnes of iron ore transported by rail
Up to 27 million tonnes of iron ore are transported annually from the mining region of Kiruna. The railway network must be fit for traffic in the winter months too in order to transport these quantities. The existing snow blowers had grown old and had to be replaced. The Swedish infrastructure operator Trafikverket therefore ordered a snow blower developed, designed and manufactured by the Swiss manufacturer Zaugg in the Bernese Eggiwil. Zaugg ZRR 10000 M is the name of the 9.5 million franc snow blower locomotive which went into service in April. With a capacity of 7,500 tons of snow per hour, it will be used on the so-called Malmbanan, the Swedish part of the ore railway between Luleå and Narvik. It will be stationed in the Swedish town of Abisko, which is also where it was handed over to Trafikverket. Before the official handover, the snow blower had to complete more than 200 hours of post-commissioning testing to obtain its operating license.
Equipped for all weather conditions
Machines of this type, which are among the most powerful snowblowers in the world, are indispensable for keeping traffic moving in the winter months on the Malmbanan which is exposed to extreme weather conditions. The northernmost railway line in the world travels over the mountains above the tree line, where heavy snow storms can lead to meter-high snowdrifts. The new rail vehicle has a larger snow clearing capacity than the previous one from the 1980s. But above all, it is much more modern, has a high level of operational safety and offers better working conditions. "In general, a lot of snow is not the problem in itself. The biggest problems arise from the combination of snow and wind and the resulting meter-high snowdrifts. The Malmbanan is one of our most important railway lines. Long downtimes have major economic consequences. I am sure that the new blower will be an enormously powerful snow clearing tool for many years" says department head Fredrik Rosendahl.
High performance snow blower
The Swedish railway operator Trafikverket wanted a purely hydrostatic drive for optimum distribution of power between the traction and clearing drives. Therefore the Matériel Industriel SA company from Crissier near Lausanne, which specialises in track-laying machines, was brought on board as subcontractor. This company can supply the corresponding drives. MATISA is also responsible for driving and registering the vehicle in Sweden. The four-axle, self-propelled ZRR 10000 M snow blower is propelled by two Caterpillar C18 diesel engines. Stage III B, each powered by 470 kW of power, acting on three of the four wheel sets.
Functions for safe and easy operation of the snow blower
The self-propelled snow blower is perfect for the harsh conditions in northern Sweden. It responds quickly and simply to a wide variety of working conditions. It can pivot 180 degrees on its slewing ring within two minutes to change the working direction of the superstructure. The two snow blower units are height adjustable (together) and horizontally adjustable (individually). The direction and casting distance of both ejection chutes are individually adjustable. For transfer journeys the snow blower units are driven close to each other and positioned just above the tops of the rails to ensure compliance with the UIC standard profile. Various positions of the snow blower units can be directly called up using programmable pushbuttons. Compared to fixed snow blower units with extendable deflectors, adjustable snow blower units enable the track to be cleared more quickly and with less drive power. A hydraulically adjustable track plough, mounted at the back of the superstructure, can be height-adjusted, swivelled left or right in the clearing direction or tilted forward from the driver's cab. In order to balance the weight, the two engines are located at the very rear of the superstructure, with the diesel tank in the centre of the vehicle. An additional auxiliary diesel engine or alternatively a stationary energy supply allows the operation of the auxiliary units as well as the thawing and heating of the snow blower.
Care was also taken to provide drivers with the maximum possible working comfort. The driver's cab containing the electronic cabinets is supported on the superstructure and damped by spring suspension, as a result of which it is astoundingly quiet in the cab even during snow blowing operation. Two tidy, identically equipped workstations offer a good view in a forward direction. The well-designed interior gives personnel adequate working space and a spacious cabinet provides space for any future ETCS equipment.
Extra safety precautions on railways during winter
Usually one operator is responsible for driving the locomotive and another for snow blowing, although the roles can be reversed at any time. Travelling in snow-blowing mode and simultaneous operation by just one person is technically possible but is not recommended in practice. Safe operation is ensured by an electronic alcohol tester, which must be used before each trip with the Zaugg snow blower.
To change working direction, the superstructure can be rotated 180 degrees in just two minutes. (Photo: Trafikverket)
Zaugg at the Innotrans fair in Berlin
From the 18th to the 21rd of September, visitors will be able to meet the Zaugg experts at InnoTrans 2018 in Berlin to find out face-to-face about our services and experience in railway snow clearing. You will find the Swiss winter service vehicle manufacturer in Hall 26 / Stand 142.