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A retrofit for the Buffalo

Plasser & Theurer retrofits are becoming increasingly popular. This comes as no surprise: we as the manufacturer have the perfect prerequisites for performing excellent work. That was also the reason why the SUM-Q3, operated by DB Bahnbau Gruppe, travelled to Linz on 22 December 2021 for a revision that included a retrofit.

The SUM-Q3, dubbed the “Buffalo”, is a track renewal machine that uses the assembly-­line method. This machine series was developed in the 1980s, and its predecessors have been built since the 1960s. Thanks to integrated ballast management including optional storage of ballast in MFS units (material conveyor and hopper units), the machine concept is still state of the art. That’s what the DB Bahnbau Gruppe operating company and its crew appreciate in the SUM-Q3, even though it’s been in operation for twelve years. The machine has renewed 1,350 km of track to date, primarily on main lines but also on secondary lines. In the past year alone, its output was around 120 km.

Plasser & Theurer: an obvious choice

In 2021, the time for a comprehensive machine revision had come. There were no doubts about carrying it out. Experience has shown that the service life of this machine type is between 20 and 30 years. For the customer, there were three arguments in favour of the revision and the retrofit. First, staff is already perfectly familiar with the machine. Once the work has been completed, the machine can go straight back into operation. Second, the costs are significantly lower than the purchase price of a new machine. Third, the machine will return to operation more quickly.

In late July 2021, Plasser & Theurer was tasked with the revision. The reasons were equally convincing and included, above all, manufacturer know-how. In Linz, Plasser & Theurer has access to all design documents. Using them for reference, the work can be performed in line with the machine’s original form. The infrastructure available in Linz is just as essential. The 114 m long SUM-Q3 was built in exactly the same factory hall where it is now being reconditioned. As an added bonus, some members of staff had participated in manufacturing the machine and therefore were perfectly familiar with it. For speedy project completion, it is also ideal if repair parts are produced directly on-site.

Customer staff members participate actively on-site

The contract includes all work that is defined in all standards as part of a 10-year revision. This includes the inspection and reconditioning of bogies, braking technology, hydraulics, electrics, and engines, which makes up around 95 % of all work to be performed. Further, individual upgrades were planned. They mostly included design modifications to extend the service life of certain wear parts.

After Plasser & Theurer had completed all preparatory work, the SUM-Q3 of DB Bahn­bau Gruppe arrived at the Linz factory in December 2021. The machine was accompanied by four members of the operating staff who would participate in every step of the project until the end.

Back on track in June of 2022

As is the case even with carefully prepared projects of this scale, many problem areas only become apparent once the machine is actually disassembled. This was also the case for the Buffalo of DB Bahnbau Gruppe. That is precisely why it is crucial for the timely completion of such a complex project to be close to design offices and to have staff with relevant know-how about similar machines. This is the only way it is possible to complete the repair drawings that, of course, are created together with the customer, within a time frame that respects the scale of the project. In the case of the SUM-Q3, the workshop in Linz determined that 35 % more work was necessary.

This added a significant amount of effort, however, it only marginally influences the planned delivery date. In May 2022, the Buffalo is scheduled to leave Linz, and its first renewal work is planned for June. The operating company emphasises that its service life will be extended by 12 years, possibly even more.