- Welsh Highland Railway Construction
Ltd announced the purchase of a Plasser KMX tamper/liner machine, to
be used in construction of Phase 4 from Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog, and
the maintenance and upgrading of the existing railway.
From the WHRCL press release:
We have always looked with envy at our standard gauge heritage
railway colleagues who are able to bring in modern mainline tamping
machines to align and tamp their track without all the manual work
we currently have to do on the WHR with our existing basic Matisa
tamper. These standard gauge machines have the ability to detect where
the track is at the start of work, and from that deduce a lifting
and lining plan as to where the track should be, what cant is required
and then with the automation they have just get on and sort it all
To look into what was needed for the WHR a small team set out to investigate
our requirements and scour the world for an affordable machine. Investigations
led us to conclude that it was a Plasser-built machine that we were
after, with their reputation for reliability, and if possible we wanted
to find a machine with the sort of automated lifting and lining equipment
that our standard gauge railway brothers benefit from. The optimum
machine we were looking for was one of the Plasser KMX series narrow
gauge machines, such as used in Australia to maintain 800km of track
on their 2 feet gauge sugar railway system. With only a handful of
these narrow gauge machines having been built our chances of finding
one available for sale were thought to be slim.
What is the Plasser KMX machine? It's a tamper designed to be assembled
to individual customer requirements in the gauge range of about 1000
to 600mm gauge. It is built to order varying from the simplest of
machines with nothing much more than a manual tamping head, up to
the most advanced with all the track recording and evaluation equipment,
lifting, slewing and lining gear. In its most advanced form it is
built with largely the same equipment used on the modern Plasser 08
tamper liners that are in everyday use on the mainline. Nevertheless
a new narrow gauge KMX tamper with automated lift and line equipment
was clearly unaffordable with a current new build price of around
1 million Euros!
Our worldwide search continued until, much to our surprise, we came
across a 1995 built Plasser KMX tamper/liner for sale in France at
an affordable price, following the closure of the extensive Lorraine
coalfields where it had been in service. Not only was it available
for sale but it was the version of KMX with everything on it!
As soon as we discovered this second hand machine was available, an
immediate trip to France was arranged so that Ffestiniog Railway Co.
engineers could inspect and evaluate the machine. This showed it was
just what we wanted, and in excellent all-round condition. In addition,
while it is currently assembled for 1 metre gauge track, its bodywork
is inside WHR and FR's loading gauge so it will be able to work throughout
The machine will arrive shortly and go into Boston Lodge during the
second half of this year, where it will be re-gauged and overhauled.
Then, with the support we have been offered by our friends from the
big railways who use this sort of automated tamping machine on a daily
basis, it will then complete a programme of training and commissioning
before being moved up to the WHR for new construction and maintenance
of the existing track.
The 17 tonne KMX is powered by a Deutz diesel engine with a scrubber
unit on the exhaust to reduce emissions for working in tunnels. Interestingly
it is also fitted with an overhead pantograph, but that is simply
a safely device to ensure the overhead line current is switched off
when the machine is working. The tamper can travel to site at up to
35 km/hour and cabs are fitted at both ends - one incorporating the
tamp and line control desks.
The lifting/lining gear on our KMX95 CM tamper is the same Plasser
technology applied to mainline machines around the world. The combined
lifting and levelling unit located directly ahead of the tamping head
can automatically lift and align the track to the predetermined position
with power and precision while the track is locked in place by squeezing
the tamping tools in the ballast under the adjacent sleeper.
WHRCL wished to record its thanks for help in the process to Terry
Turner, General Manager of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
(seen in the right-hand picture above), which already had a Plasser
machine of a different type.
The Matisa A05 tamper acquired during Phase 3 of the WHR Project was
to be retained, but the smaller Gullick & Dobson machine bought
in 1997 was for sale.