Levelling and alignment laser for tamping machines.

The railways are well known for keeping old technology going.

With the cost of new trains, and a design life of around 40 years, it’s not surprising that some aren’t in the first flush of youth.

And that doesn’t just apply to passenger trains. Many of the large machines used to maintain the network aren’t that new either.

The problem is not the mechanical side of things, that’s usually pretty timeless, but recent advances in control technology risk making some still-serviceable equipment obsolete.

That is why Plasser & Theurer, the Austrian manufacturer of tamping machines and high-output systems, is now offering “machine upgrades” for many of its earlier models.

Guiding computers can be exchanged for the latest WIN-ALC NG touch panel models, improving stability and reducing the control system’s susceptibility to failure. According to the manufacturer, the swap can be carried out in a single day.

Tampers can be upgraded with lasers for use in surveying – levelling and alignment lasers for plain track and the curve laser system for curves and turnouts. The rotation speed of tamping units can now also be modulated, reducing both wear and noise, by installing yet another upgrade.

Digital recorders, first introduced in 2013, can be fitted to older machines and, by using PlasserDatamatic, machine data and processes can be accessed using a browser, mobile phone or tablet.

Upgrading older machines with the latest technology can bring many benefits, increasing output, enabling more flexible operation and improving reliability.

Report by Nigel Wordsworth

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