The Railway Storage facility at Long Marston, south of Stratford upon Avon, was host to the recent MacroRail 2011 Exhibition.

For the first time, some 60 Rail Alliance Members gathered together to display their products both on track and in a live rail facility. The rail engineer went along to have a look.

At the entrance to the site, various road-rail vehicles were being unloaded from their trailers. The logos of Keltbray, Trackwork, UCA, JCB and Motorail Logistics were much in evidence.

Three Keltbray Road Rail Vehicles and a Mini Tamper from Trackwork were offloaded from their low loaders onto the track just as they would at a possession access point.

Three areas

The show was split into 3 distinct areas; infrastructure plant, depot maintenance and rolling stock components and services.

With plenty of space available, and members not having to pay to exhibit, it was refreshing to see that companies were able to spread themselves out and display their product ranges properly as opposed to cramming what they could into a 3m x 3m space.

Most of the infrastructure plant was on several sidings, while the components suppliers and some of the more delicate equipment were tucked away indoors in one of the larger hangers on the site.

Just inside the doors of the hanger was KOREC, specialist in the provision of construction, mapping, machine control and rail survey solutions for the rail industry.

It used the space offered at MacroRail to showcase Trimble’s GEDO CE Track Measurement Device, a multi-function, highly accurate track measuring device which, together with field and office software, is approved by Network Rail for use on all of its infrastructure.

However the undoubted star of the KOREC show was the SenseFly SwingletCAM, an unmanned flying camera for aerial mapping projects which can be launched by hand and weighs less than 500g. KOREC’s Andrew Blogg made full use of an outside demonstration area to show just how quickly and easily the SwingletCAM can be launched – it certainly brought the spectators’ cameras out!

Recently trialled successfully by Costain on the M1 with a view to speeding up their planning and progress reporting process, the Swinglet CAM would be ideal for use in the rail sector for applications such as route planning and checking track-side vegetation.

KOREC were only one of several exhibitors taking advantage of Long Marston’s open spaces to show their products off outside. Close by, Arc-Gen Hilta was demonstrating its Weldmaker along with ESAB’s Railtrack welding unit.

The Network Rail approved lightweight portable generators were remarkably quiet while the automated welder sparked into action and provided a smooth accurate weld in next to no time.

In the depot area, Motorail Logistics’ road-rail shunter resembled a giant JCB tractor with buffers. It is based on a JCB power platform but weighs in at a fraction of the price of traditional shunting vehicles while offering the flexibility of being able to be used off track as well.

Inside the hall

Back in the hanger, Sheffield-based Zonegreen had brought along a brand-new automated remote control system which allows maintenance depots and sidings to operate manual points from the vehicle without having to leave the cab.

Also of interest to depot operators was Autodrain, which was exhibiting an oil drainage pump that is currently installed at the Hitachi Depot in Ashford, Kent. The company also designs and manufactures a product called Oil Away.

This pumps hot oil straight from the engine sump into a storage tank. Leak-free twist connections to the sump mean fewer oil spills in the workshops and prevent any burns from hot oil to maintenance operatives.

Bratts Ladders of Nottingham was demonstrating various access platforms and ladders which were made out of glass fibre which are already being used in depots and heritage maintenance yards for accessing rolling stock safely.

Visitors watched as Bratts’ personnel erected a lightweight Teletower to a height of 4 meters in a few minutes. Even more impressively, they dismantled it again, folded it up, and fitted it into the back of an estate car.

Achilles showcased Link-up, the rail industry supplier registration and qualification scheme, which is used extensively by procurement, engineering, safety and quality professionals. Approximately 2,700 individual users currently have access to Link-up information on existing and potential suppliers to aid them with their procurement activities.

Back outside

Outside again, and Trackwork were demonstrating their mini-tamper on a 200 metre run of siding. This road-rail Plasser & Theurer 08 Tamper, which at only 7 metres long, can turn itself round on its own axis. After a 200 metre run it simply jacked itself up, spun around through 180 degrees, and proceeded to carry out another run.

Keltbray’s three road-railers, which had earlier been seen at the entrance, were up now also in the sidings. A tracked Komatsu P228, fitted with a Movax SP50-W vibratory piling hammer, was demonstrating picking up tubular steel pile then starting to drive it into the ground.

A second P228, this one with a Fambo piling hammer, finished the job off. The Movax then pulled the pile back out again, ready for the next demonstration to start.

Alongside all this noisy action was Keltbray’s one-of-a-kind Mani-Railer. Recently used to erect communications masts and a variety of maintenance operations from Bedford to Chichester, the RRV is capable of lifting to 17 metres with a load of five tonnes.

The platform, which is controllable from the basket or from the base vehicle, can extend out and underneath a bridge to remove the need for scaffolding or rope access while surveying.

Transformers and seats

Chesterfield based Trans-Tronic, who acquired Tesla Transformers and EMDEC in 2009, have continued to expand into the railway industry. The signalling, transformer and rectifier manufacturer was displaying a range of coil windings and toroidal transformers.

For stations, Eglin Concourse International exhibited their range of public waiting area seating including an external DDA compliant platform seat unit, a wall mounted perch unit and a polished stainless steel seat unit with upholstery pads suitable for internal waiting areas.

Eglin have recently added a new Iroko wooden bench unit to the seating range and this was also on display.

Made in Britain

Manufacturing is alive and well amongst Rail Alliance members. Several firms inside the hall represented the British manufacturing rolling stock component sector.

Glass specialist Independent Glass were displaying toughened, laminated and laminated toughened glass compliant to the BS857 Kite Mark. Stare out of any window on a UK train and the chances are you are looking through Independent Glass.

You may also find their products in the doors, internal draught screens, luggage racks and the mirrors in bathrooms on trains throughout the UK.

The glass specialist was a major contributor to the safety standards set in the UK and have a purpose built test rig where they test the glass to the latest GM/RT 2100 Issue 4:2011 test standards.

Worcester based Southco were displaying their security latches, locks, electronic access and positioning controls. Representatives asserted that, no matter how much vibration there was on a train, if there was a Southco product holding it closed there was no way the vibration would open the lock.

Avdel were promoting their blind fastening locking bolt system for fixing to a component where you only have one sided access. The Welwyn Garden city based business is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

All in all, a wide range of Rail Alliance members were represented, 61 in all out of a total membership of over 200. Regular contributors to the rail engineer were amongst them, including telecommunications network specialist Westermo, Visul Systems with its range of tactile strips and tiles for stations, York EMC who showed how to check for EMC emissions for trains and lineside equipment, and Rockwell Automation.

TQ Catalis talked about training, Hall Rail about switches and crossings, Wor-Rail about Nencki lifting equipment, and Vital Rail about security. ACO Technologies were the people to see of you were interested in water management and drainage, and MIRA was there if you wanted to crash test your train!

Positive verdict

Robert Hopkin, Executive Director of the Rail Alliance, reflected on the success of MacroRail 2011.

“We are delighted that so many of our members have taken this opportunity to take space here,” he commented.

“Our aim for this inaugural event was to prove the concept can work, with the Rail Alliance taking the financial risk in staging this year’s event. Importantly, we have felt for some time that, whilst the major exhibitions have their place and provide their own value to exhibitors, we also see that there is a requirement for a ‘no-frills’ opportunity for companies to exhibit their products and services in a rail environment and this is why we developed the MacroRail concept.

“Another feature of the event, and this is more of a reflection of the diverse nature of our membership than anything else, has been the opportunity for our members to indulge in a bit of what we call “Four Walls Working” whereby business opportunities between members can be discussed and debated, person-to-person, with the equipment right in front of them.

“We had several reports of members re-establishing or establishing contacts and sowing the seeds for possible partnering or collaborative projects in the future.

“The overriding comment from the exhibitors I talked to was that the quality of the visitors was high – and this is exactly what we set out to do, to stage a Low Cost / High Value event in the interests of our members.”

There were over 140 members who didn’t exhibit at MacroRail 2011 – the 2012 event can only be bigger and better.