Heavy shunting operation in Sengenthal

19.01.2018

With the company-railway men on track.

Trains have been rolling in Sengenthal since 1992. Over the years, the railway siding has established itself as a second important transport pillar alongside the company's own truck fleet in terms of sustainability and environmental protection. The V60 608 works locomotive and, more recently, the new V76 055 sister locomotive are used for shunting wagons loaded with segments, steel components, sleepers, raw materials or Tchibo containers. But nothing runs on the tracks without the locomotive shunting drivers. They ensure that materials and goods roll smoothly.

Heavy shunting operation in Sengenthal

 

In the morning, 5.45 a.m.

Start of service for the two locomotive shunting drivers Andreas Fürst and Jürgen Stadler. Together with railway operations manager Thorsten Kellner, they discuss the duty schedule for today's early shift. And he has it all. For the next eight hours, the shunting operation at the plant is planning a whole host of tasks. Already on the way to the machine, Andreas Fürst contacts his Deutsche Bahn colleague with his mobile phone. The "Neumarkter" rolls up in one hour with cement silo containers in tow, which come from two cement plants in Geseke and Ennigerloh in North Rhine-Westphalia. Until then, new segment wagons for the Bözberg tunnel, which were loaded during the last late shift the day before, must be available at the middle track of the presentation group. The train driver will take this group back to Neumarkt i. d. OPf. on schedule, from where the segments will then start their long journey to the tunnel construction site in Switzerland. No time to dawdle.

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A short check before the start

In the light of the first rays of sunshine that fight their way through the thick cloud cover on this dull day, the locomotive drivers reach their most important working instrument: the V76 055 locomotive, the latest jewel in the transport and equipment fleet. While Jürgen Stadler carries out an optical safety check, in particular to see whether anything has loosened or leaks have occurred, Andreas Fürst takes the power from the locomotive. The locomotive is powered overnight so that the cooling water is preheated to around 40 degrees and the engine is preheated. Next, the former warehouse worker, who has held a Class 1 locomotive driver's license for five years, activates the main power switch in the driver's cab and releases the air flow for the locomotive. Another check on the engine oil and cooling water level, then Andreas Fürst switches on the rotating beacon and the signal lights and starts the 764 hp Caterpillar engine of the diesel-hydraulically driven shunting locomotive.

Clear the way for the factory locomotive

However, it will still take about ten minutes before it can roll off. The steel power pack, which has been in service at Max Bögl since the beginning of October, first has to build up a working pressure of 10 bar in order to have sufficient storage capacity for braking. In the meantime, the locomotive has reached its operating temperature of 60 degrees. Andreas Fürst slowly pushes the drive lever forward and accelerates the colossus. The three axles immediately start to move. After about 200 meters, Jürgen Stadler answers by radio. He ran ahead as a guide. There stands a single segment wagon, which first has to be set aside. "20 meters to the wagon, 15 meters, slow down", sounds the voice of Jürgen Stadler from the radio set. Andreas Fürst brakes the 66-tonne vehicle to such an extent that the buffers of locomotive and wagon collide with a slight jerk and the automatic coupling engages. Jürgen Stadler already dives under the buffers onto the track and connects the brake hoses with a skilful hand movement. Then he gives the command to continue the journey. The wagon can be transferred to the side track for further loading of segments.

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First think, then drive

If the way is clear, the V76 055 rolls over the "new track" called in the factory jargon direction gate 3 to the parking group. Previously, it had attached three segment wagons and Andreas Fürst now places them on the middle track to the waiting wagon group. Opposite, the "Neumarkter" is already waiting with the cement silo containers, a valuable raw material for the production of segments, precast concrete parts, concrete rings for the hybrid towers and much more. After a brief consultation with the Neumarkt locomotive shunting colleague from DB Cargo, he rolls over the "new track" to the plant empty. With the raw material freight, Andreas Fürst pushes past the "old track" so that the "Neumarkter" can leave the plant again, attach the wagon group with segments and drive back to the Neumarkt i. d. OPf. railway station just six kilometres away. The challenge for the locomotive drivers is to always find the optimum shunting routes due to the limited number of tracks. This is particularly important at peak times, when up to 70 wagons have to be moved in the plant. You have to think carefully about how to manoeuvre so that you don't "kill" the locomotive on the track.

Teamwork with great responsibility

It goes on like this hour by hour. Wagons are arranged back and forth and put together into groups. Railway sleepers and segments have to be loaded there, steel girders and steel sheets have to be unloaded at the steel construction building. The Tchibo containers, which are transported every Saturday by the former DB locomotive V60 608 to the station in Neumarkt i. d. OPf. (the new factory locomotive also recently received final approval for the public rail network), must also be made available. During shunting, Andreas Fürst and Jürgen Stadler switch back and forth between the two shunting locomotives. Except in exceptional cases, only one locomotive may be used in the factory. Both are always on the move as a team. While one of them is driving, the other acts as a shunting driver and guide. It's a job with a lot of responsibility. The locomotives alone have a service weight of 48 tons (V60) and 66 tons (V76). Safety always takes precedence, especially since train lengths of up to 360 metres do not allow the locomotive driver to see forward. To ensure that everything runs smoothly, he must be able to rely "blindly" on the shunting driver at the end of the train and his instructions.

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Highest concentration on the tracks

Thick protective clothing is just as much a part of the job as heavy physical work - and of course the enthusiasm for technology. Not to mention the joy of working outdoors in wind and weather. Andreas Fürst and Jürgen Stadler alternate on this day between kilometers of driving and running track, using both hands on the drive lever and the brake and intuitively actuating the dead man's switch every 30 seconds at the latest to avoid emergency braking. Again and again the shrill whistle of the signal horn breaks through the hustle and bustle on the factory premises. Although the works locomotive is the top dog on the entire premises and therefore has the right of way over trucks, cars and vans, there are still occasional encounters of a narrower nature. With a braking distance with a full load of 60 metres and more, the danger of a collision should by no means be underestimated. The shunting operation requires the full attention of the works railroaders at all times..

When it takes longer again

Shortly before the lunch break, three wagons with steel components have to be pushed onto the siding of the steel construction hall. It is the track that passes through the middle of Hall 10 and just past the kiosk. Even before Jürgen Stadler calls by radio to give braking instructions, locomotive shunting driver Andreas Fürst sees the reason for this. A small transporter of the group of companies parks clearly beyond the white boundary line, which marks the restricted area for the safe passage of the locomotive to the left and right of the tracks. Its driver misjudged the distance and now blocks the track at lunchtime. Valuable minutes pass. Just as Jürgen Stadler is on his way to locate the wrong parker in the kiosk, he comes running with his snack and roars away with an apologizing gesture. Despite the loss of time, both locomotive drivers acknowledge the action with a smile. Then it goes on for them in the railwayman's everyday life. Three hours to go until the end of work and the subsequent handover to the colleagues in the late shift. Until then, there is still a lot to do. And that means: manoeuvring, manoeuvring, manoeuvring ...

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