World first modification of ballast cleaner

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The engineering change was carried out by Rhomberg Sersa Ireland (RSIE) as part of a joint taskforce with their client Irish Rail

A taskforce delivedered an engineering change to an RM 90 ballast cleaner to move the typical outdoor position for an operator, to an indoor position.  This was the first time this change had been carried out on a ballast cleaner.


The in-house change was part of a major project involving RSIE and their client, Iarnród Éireann / Irish Rail (IÉ), which focused on the ballast cleaner in order to identify, prioritise and deliver on improvements. The biggest engineering change carried out as part of the project was to relocate the operator from the outdoor C2 position to the driver's cab during ballast cleaning operations.


This modification was assessed to have a low monetary cost to implement but it increased the efficiency of the OTM while also increasing the cutting time between required breaks. It also reduced safety risks to opera-ting staff. The operator would normally be expected to control the C2 station while walking alongside the OTM. This position left the operator continuously exposed to a dusty environment and adverse weather conditions for extended periods.


While the feedback from the wider rail community was that the change would not be possible, the RSIE engineering team believed that it was, pending being able to overcome one of the biggest challenges - the space restrictions within the cab. The window could not be obstructed while there also had to be sufficient space for a seat, an operating panel, as well as several monitors. The solution was a simple one – a swivel seat. This meant that while the seat was typically used as a guard seat, during operations it swivelled to become the operator's seat.


Outside, four cameras were installed with live foo-tage fed to four monitors inside. The C2 operator's role is to redistribute good ballast and the live monitors allowed the operator to do this from the comfort of inside the cab.  However, the control panel can be easily moved so that it is still available to be used outdoors for setting up, packing away and ramping in and out purposes.


A number of risk assessments were carried out and the team ensured there was full compliance with all safety and regulatory requirements. Ultimately the OEM design was not changed but enhanced with the original feature of operation unaffected and still available outdoors if required. 

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