Saving time and making environmental improvements are essential everyday demands in busy rail depots.

Products that enhance air quality and working conditions are growing in popularity, as maintenance providers look to reduce costs by streamlining processes and engendering better retention of staff.

In response to this requirement for cleaner, more efficient rail facilities, Sheffield-based heavy lifting specialist, Mechan, is seeing rising interest in the European products it represents, which offer clear environmental and productivity benefits and complement the wide range of maintenance equipment it manufactures in-house.

Designed with the same emphasis on build quality and safety that customers expect from the firm, these third-party innovations are available in the UK and Ireland, exclusively from Mechan.

The future of shunting

Electric shunters provide a clean, green method of moving vehicles around a maintenance facility and Mechan is proud to represent the award-winning Rotrac models from Zwiehoff.

The road and rail shunters are emission free, relying solely on battery power to trail loads of up to 500 tonnes and boast a compact, simple design, making them extremely robust. Zero emissions are achieved through the recovery of energy during operation, which also keeps noise pollution to a minimum.

It is this reduction in sound and carbon emissions that attracted Mechan’s latest convert to the shunters. Direct Rail Services’ (DRS) Motherwell facility in Scotland has recently taken delivery of a Rotrac E2, following a 14-month trial to prove it could replace a diesel-powered locomotive.

The shunter is used to move flatbed wagons in and out of the depot. Its predecessor was louder, more polluting and could only be operated by a train driver, whereas the Rotrac can be controlled by maintenance personnel, offering greater flexibility.

Steve Wilkinson, DRS’s head of engineering, commented:

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint and this new electric shunter demonstrates our ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions wherever possible. It has proved to be as useful as a traditional diesel shunter and has been a hit with our engineers.”

Cleaner air

There are a number of ways to improve air quality in depots, not least through the reduction of hazardous diesel smoke and sand dust.

Mechan has sourced exhaust extraction systems from Blaschke that cater for any type of railcar. These flexible suction hoods remove fumes and improve manoeuvrability, whilst reducing energy consumption and noise.

Automated sandbox filling systems offer clear environmental benefits, making replenishing on-board sand less time consuming and labour intensive. They also reduce the health and safety issues connected with spillages.

Working with partner, Klein, Mechan’s sanding systems have an ergonomically designed nozzle and flexible pneumatic hoses to dispense directly from silo to train. Expansion requires very little infrastructure, making them perfect for growing depots.

Faster wheel maintenance

Working with French sister company, Sogema Engineering (SEG), Mechan offers high-quality, high-performance wheel presses and lathes to suit all types of rolling stock.

Wheel presses make mounting/dismounting wheels and other components possible with just one operator. There is no need to reposition the wheelset between pressings and an ergonomic user station makes controlling operations simple.

Mechan also supplies wheel lathes that recondition wheel profiles without removing them from the carriage, offering significant time savings. They can be adapted to suit any vehicle and are enhanced by compact foundations, making installation quick and cost effective.

Laser measuring is a must for checking wheel, brake disc and rail wear and the handheld CALIPRI from NextSense is one of the most sophisticated tools on the market. It uses three simple lasers to record all relevant parameters and is proven to eliminate human error, producing tamper-proof results.

Each CALIPRI is ready to operate on delivery and complete measurement of any complex shaped object takes seconds, requiring just one operative, which significantly increases productivity.

Lindsey Mills, Mechan’s sales manager, said:

“We are pleased to have such excellent relationships with European manufacturers whose creations have significant benefits for UK depots. We pride ourselves on the superiority of our in-house products and wouldn’t put our name to anything that fell short of our standards.”

To find out more about the third-party innovations Mechan represents, or its own depot equipment, telephone (0114) 257 0563, visit: or follow the firm on Twitter @mechanuk