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Coal mine turns to Booyco Engineering for loco HVAC solution

A leading South African coal producer will be supplied with Booyco Engineering’s purpose-designed heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems for its 8E locomotives. The order is for six of these specialised HVAC units, to be manufactured and installed by Booyco Engineering, says the company’s managing director Brenton Spies.

“We first developed an HVAC system for this class of locomotive almost 20 years ago, and we have supplied close to 100 units to South Africa’s main freight rail operator,” says Spies. “They have certainly stood the test of time. With regular maintenance, they have shown how well they perform over many years.”

Designed and manufactured in-house at Booyco Engineering’s Germiston facilities, the 8E HVAC units are equipped to withstand the harsh conditions of rail and mine-site applications – including shock, vibrations and dust. The 8E locomotive was first released in the early 1980s, with a design that did not include air conditioning equipment for the operator’s cab.

HVAC solution

“When HVAC systems became a requirement, locomotive owners soon realised that the rail environment was too harsh for conventional, off-the-shelf commercial systems,” he says. “To achieve the reliable performance and longevity that was expected, a special design was required which was initially installed in 2003.”

For this new order, Booyco Engineering has modernised the initial 8E HVAC system design to incorporate various technological improvements. These include a more energy efficient refrigerant compressor, updated electrical switchgear to railway rated versions and upgraded heating capacity, he notes. Judging from the company’s extensive experience in the rail industry, however, there are still companies operating in this sector that are not fully aware of the physical demands and harsh environment that rail transport places on HVAC systems.

“Air conditioning systems that are designed for use in buildings, for instance, are still sometimes installed in locomotives – but they seldom last more than a few months, if not weeks,” he explains. “Some of these do not even last a single trip on a long distance train journey, such is the intensity of the vibration and shocks.”

Booyco Engineering has built its reputation on decades of experience – designing and manufacturing bespoke engineered solutions for a range of specific applications in different sectors, explains Grant Miller, executive director at Booyco Engineering.

“In the South African rail sector, there are also space constraints to consider when designing for locomotives, due to our narrow-gauge rail specifications,” says Miller. “Our internal design capacity allows us to develop and test solutions that are fit for purpose.”

This includes designing for uncommon voltages which are not ideal for many electrical components, he notes, as well as coping with significant voltage fluctuations. Regulations governing health and safety, – both in the mining and rail sectors – now also make it vital that HVAC systems are both effective and reliable. These requirements are in place to avoid any safety incident from occurring as a result of an unconducive working environment, he explains.

This includes designing for uncommon voltages which are not ideal for transformers, he notes, as well as coping with significant voltage fluctuations. Regulations governing health and safety, both in the mining and rail sectors – now also make it vital that HVAC systems are both effective and reliable. These requirements are in place to avoid any safety incident from occurring as a result of an unconducive working environment, he explains.

“HVAC’s are classified as a type A Hazard and should there be a lack of cooling in an operator’s cab, this could lead to an operator being entitled to stop work,” he says. “The cost of an ineffective or faulty HVAC system would then be measured not simply in repair or replacement costs, but in terms of vastly more costly downtime and general operational disruption.”

Key to Booyco Engineering’s ability to delivery world-class quality solutions is its conformity to ISO 9001:2015 – and its approval by several OEM railway equipment companies. Each design undergoes stringent type testing to Booyco Engineering’s internal standards and to customer specifications. Systematic quality checks are also conducted through a detailed build process, followed by comprehensive production testing.

 

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