The Suspension Railway in what is now Wuppertal, Germany, received the go-ahead in 1894. The major advantage of this solution, in which the trains are suspended from the rails high above the ground and supported by rockers, was that large sections of the 13.3km route, which stretches from Barmen through Elberfeld to Vohwinkel and back, could be built over the river Wupper. The single-rail Suspension Railway completed its maiden trip in 1901. Today, up to 24 million passengers a year use the railway. “The suspended design of the railway places the

train’s centre of gravity below its fixing axle and allows it to tilt up to 15˚ when cornering, and that means it can follow the tight bends of the river at a higher speed than a train on rails,” explains Thomas Kaulfuss, operations manager for the Suspension Railway at Wuppertal City Works. Since 2016, the City Works have been putting the fourth generation of trains into operation following the step-by-step replacement of the tracks. The 31 new carriages are equipped with high-powered electric motors, robust drive components and a more rigid vehicle body, while LED lighting, padded seats and partial air conditioning will provide a higher level of comfort for the passengers. The Schaeffler Wuppertal plant (which at the

time bore the company name Jaeger and was later acquired by FAG) began supplying bearings and

other components to the Suspension Railway back in 1901. Parts manufactured in Wuppertal have also gone into the construction of the new trains. Schaeffler supplies both single-row cylindrical roller bearings and double-row tapered roller bearings for the Suspension Railway’s centrepiece: the bogie with its integrated drive system, which connects the cabin and the track. Altogether, the components represent an order volume of around one million euros and include slewing rings, axlebox bearing housings and axle supports, as well as radial bearings. The axlebox and gearbox bearings that are

manufactured in Wuppertal do their job reliably in every rail vehicle application – be it in high speed trains in Germany and France, in new railways in Russia, China, the UK and North America, or in the heavy duty rail cars that are used to transport minerals and ore across Australia. When operating a transport system such as

Wuppertal’s Suspension Railway, safety means more than just preventing accidents – it also encompasses reliable operation without component failures that could bring the railway to a standstill. “In terms of availability, we place high demands on our trains, because that in itself is relevant to safety,” explained Kaulfuss. “For example, if a train gets stuck between stations – that could lead to panic, and the passengers also can’t get off the train.”

Kingston Engineering: manufacturing and producing bespoke power screws

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Kaulfuss added: “Each of the new carriages has a bogie with two driven wheels at the front and the back of every compartment. The fact that each compartment is now controlled by its own system of drive electronics means it is still possible to continue the journey even if one of the motors fails.” The railway runs in a similar fashion to a

paternoster, i.e. the trains turn around on a nine- metre bend at each end of the track and then return in the opposite direction. The consequence of this is that a single train breaking down is all it takes to bring the entire railway to a standstill. The new trains have been designed to prevent this happening, and their developers have provided numerous backup solutions for every conceivable scenario, including a safety bar that makes derailment impossible and a mechanism that allows individual wheels to be disconnected from the system if, for example, the gearbox is damaged.


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