Free of Snow
The new blower from Zaugg Shows
what it can do on the Stoosbahn
The Stoosbahn in Switzerland is the world’s steepest funicular railway. To enable the system to run in all weathers, a new blower has recently been employed. The special machine from ZAUGG sweeps snow and leaves from the tracks – and therefore acts as a model for Alpine and urban track clearance. Photo: Standseilbahn Stoos
The new Stoosbahn, the world’s steepest funicular railway, has been operating on Switzerland’s Stoos mountain since December 2017. To keep the tracks free of snow, staff initially cleared the line by hand with shovels – as they had on the previous railway. However, the desire for contemporary, safe, fast and mechanical track clearance quickly emerged – which is easier said than done.
“A plough can easily clear snow in front of the vehicle. For the cable monitoring to work, however, the snow also needs to be removed from under the traction cable,” Deputy Technical Director Paul Steiner reports. Yet, with a snow cutter, plough or brush, the space around the traction cable cannot be cleared optimally and there is a greater risk of injury on the traction cable. “We therefore opted for an air blower from ZAUGG. With the Swiss manufacturer, we have found a partner with extensive experience in snow clearance and cable car safety,” Steiner outlines.
The path to the blower
This knowledge was very important in coordination between the cable car manufacturer, the control supplier and the operator. “The special machine was carefully planned over several site visits. After production, we conducted in-house training for the operating personnel, before installing the blower,” says ZAUGG company spokesperson Rolf Egli. Thanks to the close cooperation and detailed concept, the actual commissioning took only one day. Finally, on day 2, there was also training both on and off the system. Acceptance by the authorities followed equally quickly and smoothly. Photo: Zaugg
Use in various modes
Since then, the machine has essentially been out and about in the winter or in the snow – as required. “The blower can be mounted on the track and transported in normal timetable operation,” Steiner explains the so-called “transport position.” For snow clearance, a “passive mode” is available, in which the snow can be cleared without infringing on the structure gauge (compression sheaves etc.). “Moreover, in password-protected “active mode”, we can clear the entire track and the service walkway,” Steiner says. The control is kept very simple; the entire system (track and blower) can be operated by just one – technically accomplished – member of staff.
All track and jet control functions as well as the motor and blower speed can be controlled with two joysticks. “From the blower cab, we can look at the direction cameras of both vehicles. We can also see how the individual vehicles are controlled. Consequently, we can detect any initial faults,” the Deputy Technical Director is pleased to report.
WLAN or LTE radios are used for communication. “Not least, comfort in the cab is very good. This means compensation for the marked gradient can be achieved with a comfortable, adjustable seat,” Steiner says. All in all, together with the other manufacturers, ZAUGG has developed a “brilliant” snow clearer, which meets the needs of the Stoosbahn “perfectly.” Photo: GARAVENTA
As empirical values have been incorporated quickly and with a focus on solutions, the Stoos leaf and snow blower also represents a solution for other funicular railways and rail vehicles – in both an urban and an Alpine setting. ts