When the Corus steelworks at Port Talbot needed new, more powerful industrial locomotives for its internal rail system, it turned to Corus Northern Engineering Services at Scunthorpe to design and build them.

Four locomotives were built, with many delays and redesigns, between 2008 and 2011.

The first “Trojan” locomotive, No.920, was supplied in October 2009, followed by No.921 in February and No.922 in May 2010. The fourth locomotive No. 923 remained at Scunthorpe under construction.

Inherent problems

From new, it was reported that these locomotives were found to have numerous inherent design issues which made them unsuitable for the original planned duties due to unreliability, poor accessibility, maintainability and poor cab ergonomics.

Following a number of discussions between Tata Steel and renowned industrial locomotive manufacturer Hunslet, No.923 was delivered to Hunslet’s manufacturing works in April 2011 with instructions to carry out a fault evaluation of the locomotive and to propose recommendations for improvement.

Following a number of visits by the operator’s and senior management of Tata Steel, recommendations were finalised and agreed and work started on a number of areas.

Cab and controls

In the cab, the existing ceiling mounted control desks, driver’s seat and control cubicle were removed. A new, ergonomically designed cab/driving arrangement was installed with a fore-and-aft driving position that improves the drivers visibility, comfort and accessibility. New heating and insulation was installed, and the whole cab refinished to a higher standard.

The electrical control system was completely replaced with a Hunslet-proven IQAN-based electronic system to provide a locomotive that is safe, reliable and easy to operate.

The IQAN controls all functions allowing programming to suit site conditions. It also monitors, logs and acts upon information sent to it from the five separate electronic units on the locomotive.

To improve operator safety, the spring parking brake emergency release system was modified so that, in the event of a failure, it allows for the release of the spring applied parking brake. This eliminates the need for an operator to have to access the release mechanism from the underside of the bogies.

The relationship between the buffer face and coupler hook was incorrect making it extremely difficult to couple vehicles on a curve. To correct the relationship, a 50mm spacer was fitted along with a new coupling chain.

Poor drainage

There were problems with most of the drains fitted to the locomotive. The existing main air reservoir drain did not expel moisture that accumulated in the reservoirs. An automatic drain valve was fitted, which expels the moisture and prevents build up of water, thus providing a better quality of air supply on the locomotive.

As designed it was virtually impossible to remove the oil drain plug in the lower portion of the Voith transmission, as the fuel tank blocks all access. The fuel tank was removed and an access tube was welded into the fuel tank structure, allowing ease of access to the drain plug.

It was also found that the radiator compartment filled with water when it rained and there were no means of draining. A series of 25mm diameter holes were drilled into the compartment floor.

Finishing touches

Even the handrails were unpopular with drivers, who did not like the existing design, finding it bulky and cumbersome structure. A welded design using smaller diameter round bar was manufactured and fitted along with grab rails.

The whole locomotive was then repainted in Tata Steel livery, giving it a much smarter appearance.

When complete, the locomotive was static tested in Hunslet’s works near at Barton under Needwood, near Burton on Trent, prior to undergoing dynamic testing at Chasewater Railway. It then began commissioning and field trials on 16 April 2012 at its designated site of Port Talbot.

Hunslet are now hard at work on two more Trojan locomotives, Nos 921 and 922, which should be completed in June and July 2012. The fourth locomotive is expected to arrive at Barton under Needwood in July and should be turned around by September.

All four of Tata Steel’s smart new Trojan locos will then be fit to do what was originally intended, be the backbone of the locomotive fleet at Tata Steel Port Talbot.