Jurassic Train: DB revives old ‘Stegosaurus’ wagons

Stegosaurus (DB Cargo UK)

Covered steel wagons – codenamed BYA and probably dormant since prehistoric times, have been brought back to life by scientists at DB Cargo UK, working in their secret facility deep in the tropical jungles of Stoke on Trent.

Alright, that may be enough tenuous movie references for one story, but DB Cargo UK is in the process of reviving some thirty-year-old covered wagons and genetically altering them to become open coiled steel carriers.

Fearsomely finned reptile

“The Stegosaurus is alive and well and living in Stoke”, says the company’s slightly tongue in cheek statement. Innovative engineers (they’re not actually scientists, but they do have white coats) at DB Cargo UK’s maintenance depot in Stoke on Trent are busy converting a set of unused BYA wagons into open hot coil wagons. The Jurassic nickname –‘The Stegosaurus’ – comes from the wagons’ operational profile, claiming the company looks like the fearsomely finned reptile.

Fact is, the profile is anything but ferocious – and far more ferrous. The wagons are being reengineered to offer an economical answer to the needs of DB Cargo’s metals manufacturing customer base.

Mixed reviews

The company is breathing new life into 29 old and redundant BYA wagons after successfully trialling several prototypes with its customer Tata Steel. Demand has recently seen an increase for open hot coil wagons, so DB Cargo UK set about exploring ways to optimise its existing fleet of covered wagons to ensure it could continue to fulfil requirements.

Family resemblance? An actual Stegosaurus, yesterday (Smithsonian)

The challenge was given to DB’s cross-business Wagon Innovation Group, which came up with the concept of removing the doors from the BYA wagons and adapting the coil beds inside. The mark one prototype, which was completed in early 2020, was sent for live testing with Tata Steel, receiving only mixed reviews.

Creative genius

To obtain a greater understanding of Tata’s needs, DB’s Sales and Production teams discussed the design with Tata and fed back some of their queries and additional requirements to its Group Technical Services (GTS) Team. Supplied with this valuable insight, the GTS boffins went back to the drawing board. In a flash of creative genius, they came up with a new version and called it Mark Two.

The wagon ends were fully removed for the new modular type set-up to give better access for cranes during loading. Robust dividers were also added into the well of the wagon, giving secure pockets for various sizes of coil dependent on customer transport needs.

Full roll-out

Obsolete items were also removed from the wagon to maintain the tare weight and keep payloads at previous levels. Along with this more in-depth transition to flexible coil transport, GTS also designed a set of dividers that could be swapped into the vehicles to transport steel slabs. The ability to utilise the same wagons on either open coil or slab traffic would benefit from increased utilisation of the asset while reducing the reliance on older, life-expired steel wagons, as the BYAs are also some 30 years younger than the current open fleet.

Rare sighting. ‘Steggy’ fails to hide in this herd (DB Cargo UK)

A full roll-out of the Mark Two has now been given the green light. The plant at Stoke will convert a further 29 wagons during 2021. Mike Richards, Depot Manager at Stoke and probably a huge fan of Jurassic Park said the team at Stoke is very proud of the Mark Two prototype and has nicknamed it the Stegosaurus due to the side-on profile. “We worked closely with our colleagues in the GTS Team along with Procurement for the new modular items to enable significant improvements over the Mark One offering”, he said.

Sequel in steel

The production line to convert all 29 wagons has now been established, with much additional staff recruited to fulfil the conversion.“Asset optimisation is a key strand of DB Cargo UK’s new strategy”, said Richards. “This project demonstrates clearly that innovation and a determination to deliver for our customers is alive and well in our business.”

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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