Working in tunnels brings with it one obvious difficulty – a lack of light. In a railway environment, that’s actually not as big a problem as it sounds. Most work has to be undertaken at night, so it matters little, from a light point of view, whether the job site is in a tunnel or in fresh air.
But still, there are complications with working in a tunnel. All of the equipment, including lighting, has to be brought in from one end, usually on hand-pushed trolleys or on trailers towed behind road-rail vehicles.
Fumes can be a hazard, so petrol-powered and even diesel-powered generators may be anti-social. Better to have freestanding lights cabled in from a generator in the open air. But then the cables can be a trip hazard, and lineside neighbours might object to the noise from the generator if it runs all night.
Then quartz-halogen lights put out quite a bit of heat, and that can be undesirable in a confined space.
Who said it was easy?
Fortunately, technology can help mitigate all of these ‘challenges’.
Using LED light heads is the obvious solution to the heat problem. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) put out no heat at all in practical terms, so having the light on or off makes no difference.
They also consume far less electricity than an old-fashioned quartz-halogen lamp, so now using batteries becomes an option.
That’s exactly what leading worksite lighting manufacturer Morris Site Machinery, a well-established family owned business with a rich engineering heritage, has done. It has taken its traditional product, a generator with a telescopic mast topped by high-intensity lights, and brought it up to date.
The light head of the new TL55 Battery is made up of four 60W LED arrays operating at 24V DC. These are positioned on top of a 5.5 metre telescopic mast which emerges from what looks like a typical wheeled-trailer-generator, but is actually a battery pack containing six 150Ah deep-cycle lead acid batteries.
When first developed, the batteries took 11 hours to recharge from a standard 240V supply, and would power the lights for 54 hours. However, with the light unit often being on site for several days, even more battery life was thought to be desirable. So it was back to the drawing board and time to apply some lateral thinking.
What the design team came up with was a simple, yet remarkable, solution. PIR sensors were built into the light head to detect movement in the lit area. If none was detected, indicating that no one was working in the immediate area at that time, then the lights would be dimmed, saving energy. The lights were still on, so workers could see to re-enter the area, but the level was reduced enough that battery life went up, to as much as 500 hours in some cases.
Morris Site Machinery recently took part in a Network Rail “fuel-free site” experiment at the Tuxford Rail Innovation and Development Centre in Nottinghamshire. The company’s battery-operated lights were used to illuminate work taking place using battery-operated tools as Network Rail demonstrated how it could work at night even in urban areas, without disturbing the neighbours.
In the TL55 Battery, Morris Site Machinery has produced a worklight that is silent, cool, bright, and lasts in excess of a complete shift – several shifts if used in an area where work is intermittent.
So now there can be light in the middle of the tunnel, as well as at the end.
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