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Non-stop tamping – three decades of continuous-action tamping


Three decades ago Plasser & Theurer had a revolutionary idea: the development of a continuous-action tamping machine.

This quantum leap in mechanised track maintenance achieved numerous advantages:

  • The working output of the tamping machine and above all the cost-efficiency was raised.
  • The quality of work and ultimately the durability of the track geometry, particularly in the case of multiple-sleeper tamping machines, was raised yet again.
  • But above all the working conditions for the machine personnel were improved considerably.

From cyclic-action to continuous-action tamping

Even today, it is essential to separate the subframe from the machine frame to achieve this. In 1983, Plasser & Theurer was able to present a continuous-action tamping machine on the basis of this new concept. This machine marked the turning point towards significantly increased working speeds and drastically improved ergonomics. To this day the 09 CSM series represents the standard for continuous-action track tamping machines.

The desire for increased output as a driver of innovation

In the early 1980s the output capacities of the cyclic action tamping machines of the 08 series were at the upper end of technical feasibility. A radically new technical design was the next logical step. The first operations showed the potential this offered. The tamping outputs were immediately 30 to 40 % higher than the outputs of equivalent machines at that time.

Combination with multiple-sleeper tamping achieves new peak outputs

In 1996, further development of the tamping units, the core components of the machine, culminated in the first 09-3X continuous-action 3-sleeper tamping machine. Once again the working speed was increased by 40% compared to the fastest tamping machines at that time and not only as a peak performance but also on average. This was followed in 2005 by the 09-4X Dynamic Tamping Express which introduced continuous-action 4-sleeper tamping. That brought a further increase in output and quality.

Economic advantages of the technology

  • Higher working speeds
  • Higher quality of the work performed – extension of the service life – higher durability of the work
  • Reduction of line occupation time
  • Reduction of track maintenance costs
  • Less wear
  • Improved ergonomics

Quality and cost-efficiency – today as in the past

The saving potential through the use of a continuous-action tamping machine instead of a conventional machine is just as great today as 30 years ago. The higher output enables far more effective operation even in short intervals between trains which reduces the overall maintenance costs. The greatly improved comfort for the operator is also an important factor since the strain on the operating staff is reduced thanks to the continuous forward motion.
The high working output together with the excellent quality of work enables a fast return on investment because more metres of track can be treated in best quality in a shorter period.

An idea gains worldwide acceptance

Plasser & Theurer offers a range of tamping machines for tracks and turnouts harmonised in output which operate with the proven continuous-action tamping technology. Today, a total of more than 1,300 tamping machines with this continuous-action tamping technology are in operation in 58 different countries worldwide.

Continuous forward motion permits incorporation of further stages of work

The continuous working action forms the technical foundation for the integration of further work functions into the tamping machine. The associated work during track maintenance such as ballast ploughing and profiling and dynamic track stabilisation are also performed in continuous action. Using the continuous-action tamping technology it is also possible to integrate the technologically correct sequence of work – ballasting, tamping, stabilising – into one work machine.

09-3X Tamping Express – output to the power of three

The 09-3X Tamping Express represents a further step in high technology and quality for mechanised track maintenance (Bild 1 und 2).

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Figure 1 Positive experiences made on all continents confirm the concept of the 09-3X Tamping Express 3-sleeper tamping machine.

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Figure 2 09-3X-CW Dynamic Tamping Express with integrated dynamic track stabilisation.

The two 3-sleeper track tamping units on the 09-3X Dynamic Tamping Express allow the tamping of three sleepers in one working pass. The high achievable daily outputs lead to a far better utilisation of the track possessions and therefore an increase in cost-efficiency of the machine operation due to the lower costs per shift. Thanks to simultaneous tamping of three sleepers an increase in quality of the work performed and a more durable track geometry can be achieved (Bild 3).

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Figure 3 High-quality multiple-sleeper tamping – due to the fact that a longer section of track (3 sleepers) is treated per tamping cycle, it was possible to raise the quality of the work performed and the uniformity.

Quality cuts costs

Plasser & Theurer has pushed ahead with major developments in many other areas of track maintenance to enable the cost-effectiveness of the railway to be ensured and increased sustainably while guaranteeing the highest quality of work. More on this in the next issue.

Nick Waldhör
Projektfabrik Waldhör KG

How it all began – the first machine of the 09 series

Practical trials with a prototype were carried out from early 1982. From April 1983, the first continuous-action tamping machine went into worksite operation on Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) as part of an MDZ mechanised maintenance train. This was a 1-sleeper tamping machine with 16 tamping tines (Bild 4).

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Figure 4 Im Kasten „Wie alles begann“

In 1993, the first two 09-16 CSM continuous-action levelling, lining and tamping machines were put into operation in Hungary – this was an important contribution towards the modernisation of track maintenance on Hungarian tracks.


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