Railways simply explained
27. 09. 2018
No trains can run without shunting. Every train is created through shunting. Find out why, how and where the trains are formed and what conditions wagons must be in in order to get them from the railway yard and onto the tracks.
Rail freight traffic is quite complex. It is not comparable to road freight transport. If a truck has been refuelled and the driver has all the necessary documents with him, then it is ready to go. This does not happen when it comes to rail freight. This is because before a freight train can start, the empty wagons must be ordered in advance and supplied to the customer. After the loading and the transport order, they are then picked up from different operating points and assembled for transport into a train. This is done by shunting. The shunting is thus responsible for the provision, collection, formation and control of freight wagons or passenger cars. The term refers to the setting up, storage, organising and separating as well as moving individual wagons or groups of vehicles. A wagon is usually moved several times on its journey to its destination – both in the departure and destination station as well as en route. This process takes place in so-called shunting yards or operating nodes. Shunting yards, such as the central shunting station or more commonly known as Zentralverschiebebahnhof in Vienna-Kledering, are the train forming stations for transporting individual freight carriages or wagon groups between a region and several other larger train formation yards. At the destination, the freight train is then disassembled back into the individual wagons or groups of carriages for each customer and made available for unloading.
Rolled out and deployed
At all major railway stations, for example the Zentralverschiebebahnhof in Vienna-Kledering, which is one of the largest railway station in Austria, the focus is mainly on wagon transitions from one train to another. A locomotive pushes the wagons over the top of a so-called shunting hump, an artificially created hill. They then roll down the slope on their own and are directed via the switch area to one of the 48 directional tracks, whereupon they form a new train again. State-of-the-art technology and systems together with our employees ensure that the wagons are also placed in the correct train set. The wagons break fully automatically by the brake elements installed in the track area. In this way, around 140 trains a day are separated and re-grouped here in Vienna-Kledering – for the onward journey to destinations all over Europe and beyond to Asia.
Freight wagons are not always classed as freight wagons
When two freight wagons collide, which arises in particular during the rolling process over the shunting hump, massive forces act on the carriage material. Freight wagons must therefore meet certain criteria in order to be released from the railway yard. All wagons that do not meet these requirements because of their load or by exceeding the loading mass are manually moved at a considerable extra expense. For example, standard container wagons used in intermodal transport are not rollable. The weak container spigots, so the connectors that connect the container to the wagon would not withstand the impact of the wagons colliding. Therefore, the manipulation of standard containers and interchangeable bodies is only possible at terminals. This means that even though a wagon looks like a freight wagon, it cannot always function as one. On the other hand, our future-oriented platform truck TransANT, which consists of a modular platform and different superstructures, will fulfil the requirements, but will revolutionise freight traffic and adopt completely new logistics channels.