Mechan: Traversing the UK
Sheffield-based Mechan is one of the only firms in the country with the ability to design and build bespoke traversers.
Mechan’s distinctive yellow lifting jacks are a familiar sight in rail depots across the world.
They are the Sheffield manufacturer’s flagship product in a portfolio of lifting and handling equipment that ranges from bogie drops and turntables to bespoke traversers.
The tough, yet refined railcar lifting jacks are vital for access to bogies, wheelsets and underfloor components, producing a smooth and safe lift. They enjoy global popularity, thanks to Mechan’s unique Megalink control system, which allows one operator to raise an almost unlimited number of units simultaneously from anywhere in the chain.
By broadcasting the theoretical position of every jack at regular intervals, each unit can make speed adjustments so precise they are undetectable to the eye, correcting any height deviations. Megalink’s remote, full colour touch screen also displays useful data about maintenance and servicing, giving the user the option to monitor the entire lift or focus in on a particular jack, making it easier to diagnose faults.
Fixed location equipment drops – sometimes known as bogie or wheelset drops – enable underfloor modules to be removed, maintained or replaced without lifting or splitting the train, permitting simultaneous inspection and cleaning. This makes them particularly beneficial when an unscheduled change is required.
Drop systems involve initial investment in pit construction, but can prove very flexible, incorporating access along an entire road if necessary, allowing bogie change to be completed within two hours and saving time on other under floor work.
Under car lifting systems allow engines and other modules to be changed without raising the train.
Sitting in a shallow pit below the track, Mechan systems have removable rails that support various axle loads. In normal circumstances, they are latched into place to keep the road open for general maintenance activities and when an exchange is required, the vehicle is positioned with the relevant module located centrally above the rails.
When it is not necessary to detach a complete bogie, rail removal systems offer a cost-effective alternative to exchanging wheelsets and under car modules.
Various handling options are available to suit the needs of depot operators, including traction motor removal units, manual hydraulic units and under car manipulators.
Stripping down and rebuilding bogies can be heavy work, which is why Mechan has devised a range of products to make their removal, refurbishment and maintenance easier.
Bogie and wheelset turntables enable items to be moved between adjacent roads or around the depot and can be powered electrically or manually. Lifters and rotators are also used in the maintenance of bogies, but may be designed to facilitate inspection of other components as well.
Bogie lifting platforms and their mobile counterparts attach to the frame to raise a bogie to a comfortable working height. Mechan’s platforms are located in the workshop floor and will take the weight of a forklift truck, so formal depot operations can continue when the equipment is not in use. Mobile lifters may not offer the same all-round access, but they are cheaper to install and more flexible.
Keeping large items at overhaul facilities presents space and accessibility problems.
Mechan supplies low and high-level stands, stacking frames and pallets to facilitate the safe and ergonomic storage of traction motors, module packages, wheelsets and bogies, for removal by crane or forklift. For better productivity, automated crane and grab equipment may be incorporated into a custom storage solution.
Once bogie maintenance is complete, a bogie press or test stand is needed to mimic the loads imposed by the rail vehicle and settle the suspension, so no further adjustment to the ride height is required.
Mechan’s bogie presses accommodate various types of bogie. A spreader beam is recommended to transfer weight to the press structure, which can be mounted in the depot floor if tracks are flush or under a raised section of rail. Each unit is made to order and is available with a range of optional extras.
Traversers are a perfect example of largescale installations that are built to order and Mechan is making a name for itself in this field, having created the largest one in the UK for the Port of Felixstowe’s North Rail Terminal.
No job is too large or small for Mechan and the firm guides traverser clients from concept to manufacture and installation, producing a completely bespoke product that meets individual workshop and vehicle requirements.
Demand for these unique machines is much lower than other depot equipment, but the firm is one of the few companies in the UK able to showcase its ability.
Working on high profile UK schemes, such as Crossrail and the IEP, has provided a multimillion pound boost to Mechan’s order book, but through the efforts of its management team and international agents, exports are playing an increasingly significant role in the firm’s success.
Trade overseas grows year on year and Mechan’s products are shipped across the world to key territories including South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Panama. Expansion continues as traction is gained in Europe and the Middle East, where equipment has already been supplied to projects, such as the Cairo Metro Line Three.
Mechan is also looking to Europe to enhance its product portfolio, forging links with manufacturers that demonstrate a similar commitment to quality, safety and reliability and bringing a selection of third party innovations to the UK and Irish markets.
Laser measuring is a must for checking wheel, brake disc and rail wear and Mechan is representing one of the most advanced systems available. The handheld CALIPRI from NextSense uses three simple lasers to record all relevant wear parameters on wheelsets and tracks, eliminating human error and producing faultless, tamper-proof results.
Improving air quality and the depot environment is a growing concern for maintenance providers. Mechan has sourced flexible exhaust hoods from Blaschke that guarantee the removal of diesel fumes at source. They are fitted with narrower pipes than traditional extraction methods to enable smaller fans to be used, reducing energy consumption and noise.
Klein automated rail sandbox filling systems use a pneumatic pipe to eliminate dust and an ergonomically designed nozzle, similar to those found at petrol stations, enabling the process to be completed by just one operator. Sand is stored in an onsite silo and fixed or mobile installations can be supplied.
A greener alternative to traditional shunters is available to aid the movement of vehicles around a depot. Zwiehoff’s award winning, Rotrac electric road and rail shunters are emission free, relying solely on battery power to trail loads of up to 500 tonnes.
By combining traditional engineering skills with innovative design, Mechan drives product development, working closely with industry-leading names, including Siemens, Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi and Network Rail. This progressive, collaborative approach to projects enables the firm to secure important contracts at home and overseas with high profile schemes such as the Intercity Express Programme (IEP).
Hitachi Rail’s Newton Aycliffe facility in County Durham is using a pair of 80 tonne traversers designed by Mechan to move vehicles built for the IEP along the production line. An internal unit was specified with a low-profile design and four-metre long hydraulic ramps, to allow traffic to pass through the traverser pit when it is not in use. The second installation is external and has a more conventional construction, although a canopy was fitted to provide protection from the elements.
Working with main contractor, VolkerFitzpatrick, a set of 40 lifting jacks and an equipment drop with two bridges have been delivered to the North Pole depot in west London. As the equipment drop is located in the centre of the depot, its unusual configuration had to be designed to enable one of the bridges to retract into the pit, so it does not detract from other work and normal operations can continue when it is not in use.
The firm has also developed a further two standard equipment drops for the new Stoke Gifford depot near Bristol. All three units use the same control philosophy to establish consistency and allow trained operatives to be moved between facilities if necessary.
Finally, a three-road equipment drop, 40 lifting jacks with a 15-tonne capacity and two bogie turntables have been produced for the new train maintenance facility being constructed in Doncaster, again for Hitachi.
Sheffield-based Mechan is one of the only firms in the country with the ability to design and build bespoke traversers.
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