InnoTrans is the world’s largest railway exhibition. Held in Berlin in September, and reviewed in last month’s Rail Engineer, it attracted 145,000 visitors from across the world. One of them was British Rail Minister Paul Maynard.

As MP for Blackpool, Mr Maynard has seen first-hand the maintenance equipment, including a turntable, which is in regular use at the town’s tram depot. He was interested to learn that it had been manufactured in Sheffield by Mechan, so he took the opportunity in Berlin to visit the company’s stand. There, he found out more about Mechan’s role in key UK infrastructure projects, including the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) and Crossrail, both of which are equipping facilities with the company’s innovative lifting and handling products.

Express deliveries

To date, Mechan has supplied five sites associated with the Department for Transport’s IEP project. Its most recent orders came from the Rail Innovation Development Centre near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, where the new high-speed trains are being trialled.

Working with civil engineers Construction Marine, Mechan designed and fitted a bespoke bogie bridge that spans the width of an existing bogie-drop pit, improving vehicle access into the rail shed. It also provided Network Rail, operators of the centre (formerly known as the Old Dalby Test Track), with eight 25-tonne mobile lifting jacks with moving anvils, to enable the incoming IEP trains to be assessed fully.

The jacks will work as one synchronised set to give the facility the extra capacity to accommodate longer vehicles. Using Mechan’s patented Megalink controller, any number of units can be linked together via a single cable and operated by just one person from a portable, touch screen HMI panel. It provides constant feedback on the lift, records information about usage and faults and offers impressive power savings.

Call for Mechan’s equipment and expertise has come from all areas of the IEP and the firm has already delivered lifting jacks and equipment drops to the Stoke Gifford and North Pole maintenance centres, plus a pair of 80-tonne traversers to Hitachi Rail’s vehicle manufacturing facility in County Durham.

Traversers are a perfect example of Mechan’s bespoke engineering skills. No job is too large or small and a completely individual design can be produced to meet workshop constraints and vehicle requirements.

The two Newton Aycliffe traversers were developed to move carriages between 33 tracks inside the plant and out to the test area. The internal unit was specified with a customised low profile design and four metre hydraulic ramps, to allow traffic to pass through the traverser pit when it is not in use. The external installation (left) has a more conventional construction, but was fitted with a canopy to protect Hitachi’s vehicles from the elements.

A three-road equipment drop, 40 lifting jacks and two bogie turntables are currently in production for the IEP depot being built in Doncaster. Bogie handling is another specialist area for Mechan and its versatile equipment drops are becoming increasingly sought after, as they make bogie change feasible within two hours. Time can also be saved on other underfloor work, with the addition of adaptors that enable any type of undercar module to be removed or replaced.

New depots are not just being erected to care for the IEP trains, but also the vehicles responsible for carrying out the necessary line upgrades. Mechan has supplied a further eight 25-tonne lifting jacks to Network Rail’s £7 million High Output Operational Base near Swindon. They will be used at the behind-the- scenes facility to maintain the 23-vehicle High Output Plant System, responsible for installing overhead electric cabling along the mainline route.

Crossrail collaboration

One of Mechan’s largest contracts of the year came from the capital’s Crossrail project. The firm was asked to produce more than £1 million of maintenance equipment for the new eight-road Old Oak Common depot in north west London, which will accommodate 33 of the 66 trains being introduced to the local rail network.

A set of 30 lifting jacks with 15-tonne capacity, five bogie turntables and a three- road bogie drop have been commissioned by Bombardier, which is building the depot, supplying the trains and will maintain them once the project is complete. Mechan will be fulfilling the order in two stages, with an initial batch of products scheduled for installation before the end of this year. The remaining items will be delivered early in 2017, before the first trains arrive in May.

Richard Carr, Mechan’s chief executive, said: “We were really pleased to secure a contract of such value for one of the most significant investments in London’s rail system for many years. It proves small UK businesses have what it takes to compete against much larger international organisations, thanks to our focus on innovation and build quality.”

Working with VolkerFitzpatrick, Mechan also designed and built a 130-tonne, two-road traverser to suit the tight confines of Crossrail’s Ilford facility, enabling vehicles to be manoeuvred around a new paint shop. Due to the limited space available, it was not possible to use sidings to transfer carriages from the shot- blast bay to the paint booth, so an alternative was required.

Having collaborated on a similar project at the Port of Felixstowe, VolkerFitzpatrick knew Mechan had the capacity and technical know-how to create a suitable solution to its space issues. The 28-metre-long traverser was constructed and tested before being disassembled and moved to site in components small enough to fit into the new Ilford facility. It was then rebuilt on site and proof tested to carry loads of 162 tonnes, before entering service.

Richard added: “We’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a steady stream of orders from these two high-profile projects and our work is by no means complete. Further equipment is in the pipeline for Ilford, including jacks, bogie turntables, a lift table and two electrically powered shunters from our European partner, Zwiehoff – the first to arrive in the UK. We’re also looking forward to continuing our relationship with all partners involved in the IEP, particularly as the new Doncaster facility takes shape on our doorstep.”

This article was first published in November 2016.