today 136

50 Years Down Under

It was a proud day on 9 June 1970 when Plasser Australia Pty Limited was formally established, serving the Australian and New Zealand railway markets.

Plasser Australia initially operated from rented premises in the Sydney suburb of Girraween, in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). They manufactured, painted, tested, and prepared machines for delivery in the most difficult conditions: in a place which had no actual track incorporated.

New factory - increased production capacity

In 1980, the company acquired its current six-hectare site from the City of Sydney. Two production lines were constructed, with triple-gauge track (1,067/1,435/1,600 mm) installed, including underfloor pits, for most of the factory’s 100-metre length. In addition to the enormous increase in construction capacity, the new premises also had direct access to the four-track, 1,435 mm gauge main western line, allowing NSW-destined machines to be delivered directly “out the back door”.

600 machines for a large customer portfolio

Plasser Australia’s customer base has always been a mixture of state-owned railways, private-owned resource companies (predominantly iron ore), contractors, sugar cane consortia, and tourist railways.

Historically, the bulk of the machines were ordered by the state-owned railways, in particular, the Public Transport Commission of NSW and its many successors (State Rail Authority, Rail Infrastructure Corporation, RailCorp, Transport for NSW). In today’s very different landscape, most machines belong to the iron ore railways and contractors.

The 1977 train disaster in the Sydney suburb of Granville showed the importance of track maintenance. Prior to that, a typical year would attract some 15 machine orders, while 1978’s record of 38 orders stands unchallenged today. Another milestone was reached recently, when Plasser Australia’s 600th machine was dispatched.

The local railway market fluctuates considerably, so much so that when the order book is empty or low, Plasser Australia builds a machine that a customer will likely want in the near future. The result is a much shorter delivery time than would otherwise have been the case. Such machines have included a gauge-convertible mobile flash-butt welder, the world’s second 09-3X continuous action tamper, and an RM 900 ballast cleaning machine.

In-house manufacturing using local expertise

Situated more than 16,000 km from Linz, Plasser Australia’s local factory needs to be self-sufficient like no other: simply shipping a Linz-built machine to Australia could take 2 months, while the final customer is 3,600 km from Sydney in a direct line.

Locally developed expertise in hydraulic cylinder manufacture, identical to that in Linz, means quicker turnarounds for both the production line and spare parts sales. Recent shortages in manufacturing capacity of such cylinders have led to Plasser Australia supplying other partner companies.

While the machine design mostly originated with Plasser & Theurer (and still does), the local tropical conditions and requirements mean that off-the-shelf machines simply don’t always meet customers’ needs. This means there is a heavy reliance on a dedicated and long-serving workforce.

New managing director at Plasser Australia

Plasser Australia has appointed Michael Keefe as managing director effective as of March 2020. Michael has worked in the rail industry throughout Australia and abroad for over 27 years. He has held management positions in various companies that have encompassed passenger, freight, and heavy haul systems, e.g. Aurizon, Queensland Rail, and John Holland Rail. Michael brings a wealth of skills and experience to Plasser Australia. His expertise will ensure the company’s continued success and growth.

Machine service and overhauls round off the services offered

Recognising the need to offer something more than new machines to the local market, in 2014 Plasser Australia decided to expand the facilities to include a dual-gauge (1,067/1,435 mm) machine overhaul facility on the existing site. The new “Workshop 2” incorporates a machine wash-down facility, high-capacity overhead cranes, and eco-friendly water recycling and engine-exhaust extraction systems.

In an environment where global manufacturing is escalating, Plasser Australia is perfectly placed to contribute to the ongoing success of the Plasser & Theurer group of companies.