Free track ahead

New snow blower from Schmidt ensures clear tracks on the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway

The Matterhorn Gotthard Railway in Disentis in Switzerland was looking for a contemporary, powerful and above all safe snow-clearing vehicle to be deployed in tough winter conditions on the Oberalp Pass. After examining various options, a Bernina snow blower was acquired from the Rhaetian Railway at the end of 2014. However, this “old lady”, who was more than 50 years old, had to be thoroughly renovated and upgraded. This was a task for Schmidt’s railway experts at the St. Blasien site.

After being transported from Landquart in Switzerland to St. Blasien in January 2015, the snow blower was first completely dismantled. An examination revealed that, of the original vehicle, only the chassis, the cabin and parts of the power unit could be retained. The inner workings of the cabin, the technology and the clearing head had to be completely replaced and in some cases redesigned. The power train was converted from an electrical clearing head drive supplied with power via roof-mounted pantographs to a diesel-hydraulic clearing head drive, and the power unit was improved. The vehicle was also retrofitted with a cogwheel brake. In addition, the snow blower was given a new diesel engine delivering 682 KW of power and a new telescopic clearing head, with a maximum clearing width of 4.60 metres and a maximum clearing height of 3.00 metres. The inner workings of the cabin are also unrecognisable. The control console was completely overhauled and ergonomically designed. The clearing head is now operated by joysticks and has significantly more control functions than it did previously.

The biggest challenge with this project was the time. The snow blower had to be delivered back to the customer by no later than September. “Nine months are really quite a long time, but with this project this was just a blink of an eye,” recalls Clemens Rosa, head of development for winter maintenance technology at Schmidt and the leader of this project. “The snow blower on the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway is not just a ready-made machine. In spite of meticulous planning, one or two details could not be foreseen, for example hidden cracks in the chassis or assembly frame.” The fact that it was ultimately possible to meet the timeframe was not just down to the experience of the staff involved, but above all also thanks to the great team spirit. “From purchasing, quality management, logistics, development through to assembly, every single colleague put their heart and soul into this project,” says Clemens Rosa. “Lots of little cogs and perfect cooperation were needed to complete this project in the allotted time. But close contact with the customer and a regular exchange of information on site in St. Blasien helped us to carry out the work ‘on time’.”

With so much time and dedication put in, it was almost difficult to say goodbye in St. Blasien. “The project was very special for everybody involved and we are definitely a little bit proud when we see the 28 tonne result and a satisfied customer that was able to take receipt of this overhauled old snow blower on schedule on 16 September,” says Clemens Rosa.

In November, the HB10 with the name “Tschamut” was ceremoniously put into operation in Disentis. We wish a safe journey at all times and a free track ahead.