Canterbury, Lourdes, Glastonbury, Santiago de Compostela and Berlin. What do they have in common? All are places of pilgrimage. In the case of Berlin, 125,000 people assemble in one small area of the city every two years for that most revered of occasions – InnoTrans.

Since 1996, when an initial 6,000 experienced the magic of InnoTrans, the event has grown until, in 2012, 121,066 people, 62,803 of them from outside Germany, gathered at the Berlin Messe for the world’s premier railway technology exhibition.

Over 94,000 square metres of exhibition hall space (that’s 13 of the internationally recognised units of area – the football pitch) and a further 3km of outdoor railway sidings make up the show. That space is occupied by the displays of 2,500 exhibitors from 49 countries around the world.

Berlin Messe

Berlin Messe

Comprehensive displays

Amazingly, it all runs smoothly. All those visitors arrive by metro trains at two stations and file into the venue and then, eight hours later, file out again.

So what do they see inside? 26 Halls, some of them on two or three floors, packed with exhibits of everything from complete diesel engines to the cloth for train seats. Do you want to find a lubricant to make points work more smoothly? Try Hall 26. How about those neat clips that hold rails down? Hall 23. Couplers for fastening carriages together into trains? Hall1, second floor. The pantographs to go on top are in Hall 9.

It’s all there! Whatever you want – someone will have it on a stand for you to see, touch, pick up (if you’re feeling strong) and ask about.

And there are whole trains there as well. High speed trains, locomotives, new designs of trams, even on-track plant. A couple of shows ago, Alstom’s latest AGV high speed train made its public debut, side by side with Bombardier’s S-stock train for London Underground. This year, Siemens’ new train for Thameslink is rumoured to be making an appearance.

The show is so vast that there is an internal bus service taking visitors between halls. If walking, be sure to take comfortable shoes and give yourself at least 15 minutes between appointments to make sure you get there on time.

If a company doesn’t show up at InnoTrans, everyone assumes they’ve gone bust. It’s that important. The Rail Engineer will be there – look for us on stand 215 on the ground floor of Hall 7.

But apart from your favourite railway engineering magazine, what else might be of interest this year?

Trains and technology

Bombardier will have one of the largest stands at InnoTrans. Showcasing ‘The Evolution of Mobility’, exhibits will include vehicles and technologies that tackle 21st-century mobility challenges while redefining passenger and freight transportation.

Operators, cities and governments worldwide face the same three biggest mobility challenges – capacity, efficiency and urban flow. Bombardier’s Capacity exhibits will include metros, double-deckers and high speed trains with enhanced space and flexible interiors for moving more people in greater comfort. The Efficiency exhibits will show how advanced technologies bring about improved performance with optimised lifecycle and infrastructure costs as well as higher safety and availability.

Included in Bombardier’s Urban Flow exhibits will be advanced monorails, trams and signalling systems, together delivering cleaner mobility, reduced headways and the flexibility needed to optimise traffic on any network.

Siemens will be showing off a host of products. As well as the Thameslink ‘Desiro City’ trains already mentioned (the first three complete cars), there will be the first of the new Avenio-series trams and a C2 metro, both for Munich, and an Inspiro destined for Kuala Lumpur.

The company will also be displaying its smart rail grids, an intelligent power supply for trains, and driverless systems which are already in service on Paris Metro.

Alstom will introduce three major new products: the very latest version of its Citadis tram, a predictive maintenance tool, and new versions of the Atlas range – its ERTMS solution.

The new Citadis, more comfortable, more spacious and more accessible than earlier models, has been designed to improve the passenger experience. It will also feature more options, enabling it to be adapted to suit the unique requirements of individual towns and cities.

The predictive maintenance tool, which has been developed to reduce total lifecycle costs, can monitor the state of equipment and forecast its remaining usage time, hence optimising operational availability and maintenance costs.

Finally, Alstom will introduce new versions of the Atlas range, its ERTMS solution. Scalable, they will adapt to various traffic requirements and can be used in low or high density networks to provide a better response.

Vossloh’s ultramodern and high-powered diesel locomotives for shunting, freight and passenger services are very much in demand not only in Europe – Class 68 and Class 88 are currently being built at the company’s Spanish factory for the UK market.

All locomotives on display outdoors will be based on the modular platform strategy whose basic objective is to develop customised locomotives from series-production units. Moreover trade visitors are invited to inspect the new 100% low-floor tram and 70% low-floor tram-train (similar to the units in-build for Sheffield Supertram).

Equipment for trains

Voith, known in the UK for its automatic transmissions, will also be showing its new SA3 coupler. This allows automatic coupling of the main reservoir and brake pipes and has proven itself in heavy goods and passenger transport. It can be found on locomotives, railcars and passenger trains, particularly in Russia and the former Soviet states.

The SA3 head now accommodates fully-automatic coupling and uncoupling, enhancing safety, efficiency and comfort. The coupler heads are extremely robust and withstand high loads and temperatures of up to -50°C.

SKF plans to introduce a new class of compact tapered roller bearing aimed at the heavy haul market. Rated for 45 tons axle loadings, the new bearings will allow freight railways to increase capacity by carrying more in each wagon. On a smaller scale, new bearings for EMU/DMU applications have been designed for longer between-service intervals which will keep maintenance costs down.

Deute-Werke will feature six series of new products under the banner ‘Worldwide Tailor-made Innovations’. These will include REDBOX Safety Systems cover the entire spectrum for the measurement, recording and visualisation of speed with a safety level of up to SIL 4.

Meanwhile, in the driver’s cab, the four most important strands of driving information can be displayed on the digital display of the new MFT R 11/2 multifunctional terminal. The driver can manually switch between the TFT and the digital indicator.

Beakbane, manufacturer of composite panels, will be showing its latest lightweight guard technology for rolling stock. These are built around a honeycomb core and offer very high impact resistance combined with extremely low weight. Compared to metal alternatives they are easy to fix and handle, more durable and, because of their light weight, reduce energy costs and carbon footprint.

The British company will also demonstrate its comprehensive range of bellows and flexible connectors for applications such as brake actuator bellows, pantograph arm bellows, HVAC connectors and air intake bellows.

Cytec Industrial Materials, based in Heanor, Derbyshire, will showcase innovation in advanced lightweight composite materials based upon prepreg technology. This allows the manufacture of thin and complex sections, including sandwich panels, which exhibit outstanding mechanical and fire performance properties, whilst offering significant weight savings over conventional materials. Typical railway interior applications for these materials include wall panels, partitions and ceilings while exterior and structural applications include fronts and fairings.

Infrastructure is not overlooked

Plasser & Theurer always has a large stand at InnoTrans. ‘30 years continuous tamping’ emphasises the economic successes of continuous-action tamping machines for over three decades. Over that time, technology has been developed constantly, enabling continuous tamping of up to four sleepers simultaneously while using fewer resources. At the same time, operators have benefited from ergonomically-designed workstations. At InnoTrans, Plasser & Theurer will be presenting the latest product of this continuous-action tamping technology, the universal tamping machine Unimat 09-4×4/4S.

Also at InnoTrans will be Plasser & Theurer’s new material conveyor and hopper units. Designated type MFS 120, these permit higher safe loads and offer improved load distribution for travel on additional types of line. The retractable transfer conveyor belt means that no match wagons are needed. A new operating concept allows several MFS units to be controlled from one unit and the MFS 120 can be switched off automatically when it is completely loaded.

Robel, which can be found next door to Plasser & Theurer’s stand, will focus on its hand-operated machines and equipment. It will introduce its 62.05 Vertical Tamper series to international trade visitors and also present its innovative battery powered series which achieves time savings of up to 25%.

All 62.05-series vertical tampers feature patented vibration decoupling which enable operators to work comfortably due to their low hand-arm vibration. Available with either petrol engines or electric motors, the tampers have a newly-developed tamping tool which can be replaced easily and quickly on site.

The new range of modular battery-powered drills and wrenches is ideally suited for working in tunnels and, due to the low noise output, in urban environments. The high-power battery pack delivers quick cycle times and good availability – crucial in so many jobs on the railway these days.

Schweerbau will take its usual place in the outdoor displays. Look out for the new rotary planer, as described in issue 116 (June 2014). More traditional rail grinding will also be on show, as will machinery for ballast cleaning.

Talking track

Kilfrost, which supplies de/anti-icing products for the transport industry, will be presenting its solution to frozen ballast and dust suppression problems. Track renewals can be challenging during the winter period due to the risk of ballast freezing, and frozen ballast on the ground can significantly slow down the excavation of old ballast, including the lifting of rail panels.

In the warmer months, dust becomes a greater issue that is often exacerbated by track renewal work, reducing visibility for those working by the track and impacting the health and safety of rail professionals and passengers.

Overcoming both of these problems, Kilfrost’s AGT is an inhibited glycol-based de/anti-icing fluid which is fully biodegradable and non-hazardous. It offers high levels of de/anti-icing performance down to temperatures as low as -25°C and also suppresses dust. It can be easily sprayed onto the ballast, absorbing any moisture from the surface and creating a coating which prevents further moisture from forming.

Tata Steel will be showcasing its extensive range of premium rail products, including Stress-Free heat-treated rail which has the lowest residual stress available for enhanced resistance to foot failures, and Multi-Life grooved rail which offers multiple lives through its increased wear-resistance and its ability to be weld-restored in track. The market leader in rail products, Tata Steel will also have two of its international experts on hand. Pascal Sécordel and Frédéric Fau will be at Speakers’ Corner discussing how Stress-Free heat-treated rail’s outstanding wear-resistance and uniquely low residual stress deliver industry-leading performance.

Consolis, the French pioneer in rail infrastructure, will be showing that InnoTrans is not just about trains. The Consolis group manufactures more than 3.5 million concrete sleepers each year and is a leader in both the design and manufacture of precast concrete sleepers and bearers. Consolis Rail’s extensive product portfolio includes mono and twin block sleepers, slab track systems and bearers as well as other products and systems. The group also provides engineering services for the construction of sleeper factories.

British presence

The Brits will be there in force. The Railway Industry Association is organising two pavilions on behalf of UK Trade and Investment. 46 companies will be represented on those stands, and there will be a further 60 British exhibitors with their own independent displays scattered around the show.

The Rail Alliance will also be in Berlin. Around a dozen members will be exhibiting a range of products and services – many of them taking the plunge into an international market for the first time.

Looking at the list of British participants, one can’t help but notice the wide range of activities that it represents. It includes CLASSEQ Classic Glass & Dishwashing System, Holdsworth Fabrics, Beacon Rail Leasing, Cressall Resistors, DWG Timber Components, Welsh Government and the University of Birmingham. What a mixed bag!

Furthermore, Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin will be at InnoTrans on Wednesday, doing his bit to promote British technology and expertise to an international market.

The Rail Engineer will be at InnoTrans Berlin between 23 and 26 September, along with the Secretary of State and around 2,500 of our readers. If you’re one of them, drop into Hall 7.1A stand 215 and say hello (or should that be ‘Guten Tag’?).

If your company is announcing new prducts or technology or recently completed a major engineering project, please stop by our stand at the rail engineer and meet with our engineers.

Let us know what you thought of InnoTrans in the comments…