The Sheffield-based manufacturer of heavy lifting machinery specialises in supplying handling and control equipment for train maintenance depots. By combining traditional engineering skills with innovative design and advanced technology, Mechan has created a range of products that is renowned the world over for its quality, safety and reliability.

Thanks to its patented Microlink system, Mechan’s flagship lifting jacks have earned global popularity, allowing multiple units to be raised simultaneously from anywhere in a chain by just one operator. In 2011, a major redevelopment of the control system increased its capacity to cater for longer, high speed trains and now an almost unlimited number of jacks can be operated together.

By utilising invertor technology to update its Microlink system, Mechan has introduced a power consumption saving of up to 50 per cent, while the addition of a touch screen HMI panel provides the user with constant feedback during the maintenance process. These changes have produced a more technically and commercially viable system, without losing any of Microlink’s flexibility, and are opening up new markets for Mechan’s jacks by enhancing its competitive edge.

Introducing innovative shunters

There have been a number of significant new additions to Mechan’s product range, most notably the award-winning Zwiehoff electrically powered road/rail shunters, for whom the firm is the approved supplier for the UK and Ireland.

The Rotrac E2 has a 250 tonne capacity and achieved third place in the concept vehicle category at the 2012 OkoGlobe awards, thanks to its energy efficiency and zero emissions. Following the success of this pioneering system, a larger 500 tonne shunter – the Rotrac E4 – was premiered at InnoTrans in September and was met with enthusiasm from across the transport industry.

This high degree of energy efficiency is produced by Zwiehoff’s 48V Technology, which uses only a few battery cells and a small quantity of liquid to provide the necessary drive. Zero emissions are achieved through the recovery of energy during operation and because the shunters are powered electrically, noise pollution is kept to a minimum.

But perhaps most importantly, the Rotrac shunters have a boost function that gives first class pull-away performance and sensitive steering for on the spot turning, ensuring passenger and freight trains can be moved effortlessly. Explosion proof versions are also available for use in hazardous environments.

A compact, simple design and low centre of gravity makes the Rotrac shunters small, yet extremely strong and robust. They are supplied with radio remote control as standard and fitted with adaptive vehicle controls to synchronise individual wheel drive, manage speed and adjust the compensating rail guidance system. Safety features include a warning light, signal horn, automatic temperature and overheat controls and emergency shutdown.

Mechan is also the approved UK and Ireland supplier of the Calipri wheelset measurement device from NextSense and Klein sandbox filling systems.

Bespoke maintenance

Mechan has introduced new under-floor lifting systems that significantly reduce the time it takes to maintain, repair or replace components on the underside of a rail carriage.

The systems are designed and built in-house to meet the individual needs of each client and can be used to lift/lower complete trains or single rail cars. All necessary equipment is stored below ground, to ensure the main depot or workshop floor remains unobstructed whilst work is carried out.

Two types of lifting system are available, based on cantilever or column designs. The cantilever is ideal for workshops with space constraints, as bogies can be moved beneath the railcar or train, while using a column design allows components or bogies to be replaced directly behind the under floor system. In both cases, the body supports/stands can be designed in accordance with the client’s requirements.

Mechan also offers a completely bespoke service for the design and specification of vehicle traversers and turntables. From concept to manufacture and installation, the firm can produce equipment that meets individual workshop and vehicle designs. Sizes range from 60 tonne units, capable of handling a single railcar, to 170 tonne capacity freight locomotive versions.

Tried and tested technology

A commitment to updating and streamlining its handling products drives the development of Mechan’s most popular lines, which include jacks, jib cranes, wheelset and bogie drops, bogie manipulators and lifters.

The firm’s expert engineers have refined Mechan’s intelligent lifting jacks to enable co-ordinated multiple use to a 3mm tolerance. A mobile version with either a fixed or moving anvil is also available for added flexibility. They are quick to set up, interlink and substitute, while rail-mounted jacks with moving anvils can be provided if necessary. They range from five tonnes to 45 tonnes and have been devised to cater for all uses including trams, metros, light rail systems, main lines and heavy on-track plant.

Mechan’s general-purpose lifting products, which include swing jib cranes, have various rail applications. Cranes may be freestanding or wall-mounted, with either chain or wire rope hoists. More than 700 formats are available, with standard capacities of up to five tonnes.

Bogie drops

Demand for bogie and wheelset drop systems has surged, as train operators maintain the latest rolling stock at purpose-built traincare centres. At many locations, Mechan’s bogie drops were specified in the original depot design.

Drop systems facilitate safe and swift removal and replacement of entire bogies, wheelsets and under-floor units from rail vehicles without decoupling. This makes a bogie change feasible within two hours, while time can also be saved on other under-floor work.

The scissor-type hydraulic system has been used at some depots, but Mechan’s ‘intelligent’ screw-jack mechanism is now favoured for its operating qualities and its greatly reduced pit-depth, minimising civil costs.

Bogie handling

Bogie lifting platforms are designed to make maintenance easier, allowing the operator to raise the bogie to a comfortable working height. Platforms are located within the workshop floor and when a bogie needs to be lifted, they are activated via the control unit or remote handset. The two rail sections rise up until they are at the desired working height.

Mechan’s bogie turntable is used to transfer bogies between roads within maintenance facilities. It is designed to enable complete rail vehicles to roll over it at low speed, while the wheelset turntable transfers wheelsets between roads in maintenance facilities.

Bogie frame manipulators lift and rotate a bogie during maintenance and refurbishment, providing access to all areas in an ergonomic and safe manner. They are fitted with rotating faceplates on the front of the lifting carriages and have modified feet to provide a wide and stable base. These manipulators work in pairs, controlled from a single panel mounted at the rear of the master unit.

Other handling equipment offered by Mechan includes wheelset lifting beams, bogie stands, low and high level stands and one-piece bogie stacking frames.

Focusing on the future

The company boasts long-standing relationships with some of the most prestigious names in the transport industry, who have rail depots across the world. They include Siemens, Alstom, Bombardier, Hitachi, Network Rail and Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation.

Export business is becoming increasingly important to Mechan’s growth and last year accounted for 25 per cent of turnover, compared to just 2 per cent in 2005. Despite recent economic turbulence, the firm has managed to maintain sales and profit and has even opened up new markets in Taiwan, New Zealand and Belgium.

Interest from clients in new countries is still forthcoming, thanks largely to the firm’s global network of agents who are spreading the word about its wide range of products.

For further information on Mechan’s depot maintenance products, telephone
0114 257 0563, email: or visit