Test in snow and ice.

To find the right vehicle for its fleet upgrade, VR Track subjected a Unimog U 427 to a tough test.

The Unimog is an engineering solution, just like a reliable workmate. People often only understand why so many users choose it once they have got to know it themselves. One example is VR Track in Finland, part of the VR Group. The company employs 1800 people, managing 6000 kilometres of rail network. VR Track operates in Finland and Sweden, providing consulting engineering, construction and maintenance services, specialising in infrastructure projects. VR Track is also a major supplier of railway construction materials, and can be described as a pioneer in the industry – agile and innovative.

VR Track's customers include government agencies and local authorities, ports and industrial companies. VR Track is involved in numerous infrastructure alliances, managing projects especially with a view to improving productivity and quality – and that's just where the Unimog comes into play.

The principle: Light, value-for-money and low-emission vehicles.

Following a recent review, VR Track decided that its current fleet of bimodal vehicles was no longer meeting its self-imposed demands in terms of meeting state-of-the-art and environmentally sustainable standards. It concluded that there was only one reasonable solution: replacing its old fleet with new, light, value-for-money, low-emission vehicles.

The specification quickly made clear: Unimog has major potential.

VR Track drew up a requirements specification. The top priority was multifunctionality. So the management obviously turned to the Unimog. And in Spring 2017 they acquired their first one as a pilot project. The plan was to test the Unimog intensively in the Spring and Winter on construction and maintenance jobs. The aim was to test the Unimog's usability and operator comfort, as well as its suitability for railway maintenance work across the seasons, with their widely varying demands and challenges.

Tram operator in vienna gets new Unimog road-railer.

Multifunctionality was an integral element of the pilot project right from the beginning. Both the Unimog and its equipment had to prove their worth. In the Winter, VR Track deploys the Unimog as a snow clearer on tracks and other infrastructure. So the add-on equipment includes a snow plough, a snow cutter, a snow sweeper, a road-rail system, and a Hiab crane with a crew cage, enabling personnel to carry out care and maintenance work on electrical systems and lighting installations. The snow sweeper and cutter had to be suitable for clearing and maintaining roads and sites. VR Track’s Unimog can also be used as a tractor rig to tow various types of trailers. Another special feature is the ZAGRO rail guidance system. It can be switched from the Finnish wide gauge (1524 mm) to standard gauge (1435 mm) as is used in Sweden.

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In the video: The Unimog during the Finnish suitability test.

The first test-results with the Unimog are pretty encouraging.

To analyse the pilot project, VR Track set up a detailed test programme and reporting system. The results were clear: The Unimog is a light truck that can very quickly reach its operating locations by road at speeds of up to 89 km/h. It can quickly and easily switch to rail running. It proved ideal as an equipment carrier. The highly versatile and variable vehicle dealt optimally with all the wide-ranging tasks and challenging weather conditions it faced.

The success of the pilot project was further guaranteed, not least, by the advice and support received from Veho Oy, a Mercedes-Benz general distributor in Finland, and its sales manager Risto Eränen, who coordinated the set-up and oversaw the crew training. In February 2017 the operators underwent an intensive theoretical training course, followed by practical tuition on the vehicle, including the crane.

The Unimog managed all its tasks with high assurance – from cutting through drifts in the snowy north of Finland, to snow clearing and sweeping in eastern Finland, to the special tasks which VR Track assigned it. “We needed the experience of winter conditions to be able to decide machine’s suitability to our business especially in maintenance”, says Timo Riihimäki, VP of Machinery and Materials at VR Track. The U 427 demonstrated its capabilities and handled the maintenance and repair of the overhead cables efficiently. It achieved that very well, also in conjunction with the hydrostatic drive system, which enables the working speed to be regulated steplessly from 0-50 km/h, and is even remote controlled from the work cage. The drivers like the good all-round visibility from the spacious cab, as well as the user-friendly controls.

Source: Unimog Magazine 2/2017
Text: VEHO OY AB, Finland

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