Snow clearing with the road-rail Unimog
In order to find the most suitable vehicle to replace their current fleet, VR Track is currently putting a Unimog U 427 through a series of extensive tests. To date, the all-rounder has successfully mastered all tests to which it was subjected.
The Unimog is a real engineering solution, just like it is also a reliable helper and worker. Why so many people opt for this vehicle becomes clear once you get to know it. This was also the case for VR Track in Finland, which is part of the VR Group. The company employs 1800 people and operates a rail network spanning 6000 kilometres. VR Track is operational in Finland and Sweden, and also runs an engineering agency and construction company as well as providing maintenance service solutions with a focus on infrastructure projects. What's more, VR Track is a major supplier of materials for railway construction and can also be seen as the pioneer in its branch as an agile and innovative company.
Among VR Track's customers are government institutions and municipalities, ports and industrial companies. VR Track in involved in numerous infrastructure alliances and manages the projects with a particular focus on increasing productivity and initiating quality improvements – and at the very latest at this point, the Unimog comes into play.
A short while ago after a fleet analysis was carried out, VR Track came to the conclusion that the current fleet of road-rail vehicles no longer corresponded to their own modern and environmentally-friendly standards. Accordingly, there was only one logical solution available to them: replacing the old equipment with new, light, low-emissions vehicles which, in view of their abilities are comparatively inexpensive.
The list of requirements made one thing clear: the Unimog would have great potential here.
VR Track established a catalogue of requirements. Multi-functionality was at the very top of their priorities. Those responsible for the fleet had no other choice but to turn to the Unimog and in spring 2017, the company acquired their first vehicle for their pilot project. The plan was to test the Unimog intensively in spring and winter as part of construction and maintenance projects. The aim of this was not just to examine the usability and user comfort of the Unimog, but also to look into its suitability for use in maintaining the railways across all seasons with their very different demands and challenges.
From the outset, the multifunctional operations were a fixed component of the pilot project. And it wasn't just the Unimog that was being put through its paces, it's equipment was also on the test bench. In winter, VR Track uses the Unimog as a snow-clearing vehicle for tracks and infrastructure. Among the optional equipment are a snowplough, snow cutter, snow brushes and a Hiab crane with a basket for carrying employees who take care of and carry out maintenance work on electrical installations and lighting, for example. The winter service vehicles must also be suitable for clearing snow from roads and plots of land. Use as a towing vehicle for transport tasks requiring various trailers is possible with the road-rail Unimog. A further specificity is the ZARGO rail gear: set for use on the wide tracks of Finland (1524 mm), it can subsequently be adjusted for use on normal track widths (1435 mm) such as those found in Sweden.
The first test results were impressive.
For the analysis of the pilot project, VR Track has established a detailed test program with an appropriate reporting system. The results of this are clear: the Unimog has proven itself as a light-duty truck which, with its top speed of up to 89 km/h, can get colleagues very quickly by road to where they are needed. Swapping from the road to the rails is quick and easy. Plus, thanks to its platform being suitable for attachments and body-mounted implements, it is an ideal vehicle. Even in light of the diverse tasks and demanding weather conditions which it must face, the multifaceted and adaptable vehicle coped very well.
Finnish Mercedes-Benz general distributor Veho Oy were on hand to help guarantee the successful implementation of the vehicle, as too was their Sales Manager Risto Eränen, who didn't just assist the pilot project, but also coordinated the details for the body and looked after the training of the operations team at the customer itself. Users took part in an intensive theoretical training course in February 2017, followed by practical training on the vehicle and its crane.
To date, the Unimog has completed all tasks to the full satisfaction of the team – be it snow cutting in snow-rich northern Finland or snow clearing and sweeping operations in the east of Finland and even any other special tasks which VR Track demanded of it. "We needed to gather experience in wintry conditions in order to be able to decide whether the Unimog was suitable for our requirements," explained Timo Riihimäki, Vice President for Track Machinery, Rail Materials & Support Services at VR Track. An important aspect was that the Unimog could also prove its worth in maintaining and repairing the overhead lines. This worked really well in conjunction with the hydrostatic traction drive, with which the working speed can be steplessly adjusted between 0 and 50 km/h and which can even be controlled remotely from within the working basket. Drivers particularly appreciated the good all-round visibility from within the spacious cab, as well as the well thought-out operating concept.
Text, photos & video: VEHO OY AB, Finland