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One brilliant idea, 40 years of free tracks in the Middle East ​

When other technologies have already reached their limit, a sand removal machine (SRM) keeps going strong. ​

​Sand drifts in the track area can become very dangerous. They hinder traffic on the affected lines or result in line closures for regular traffic to prevent derailments. Already in the late 1970s, Plasser & Theurer recognized the need to ensure free travel using robust technology: the SRM was born. So far, it has proven itself 15 times in five countries. “From a global perspective, it’s a niche market, but for infrastructure operators in certain climate zones this technology is key,” says Thomas Gruber, Team Lead in Product Management. ​

Its potential is not to be underestimated. Conventional technologies quickly reach the limits of their capacities. Not even accelerating the forward speed can achieve better results. The SRM moves effortlessly through the sand until standstill, regardless of its forward speed. At the same time, the machine’s performance does not decrease. Thomas Gruber explains: “Two characteristics have made the machine successful: it continuously collects material regardless of the forward speed. And, the material can be discarded either on the left or right side of the track, preferably with consideration to the main wind direction.”

The SRM can handle more than sand

In addition to removing sand from tracks, the SRM is also able to remove spilled cargo, excess ballast, or other loose material from the ballast crown which is important for safe railway traffic. It is equipped with rotating rail fastening brushes that also allow to clear rail fastenings.

Working flexibly on single-track lines

The SRM is frequently used on long single-track line sections. This called for engineering solutions to increase flexibility. The results are simple but speak for themselves: a swivelling bolster makes it possible to change the working direction. To do that, it lifts the entire machine centrally from the track. Thanks to the machine’s off-railing mechanism, it is possible to open the track for traffic during operation and to resume work immediately after trains have passed.

This is proof that the SRM technology and its fine-tuned details have evolved in line with developments in mechanical engineering.