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Raising the Roof. A whole new way of transporting automobiles – and only at DB Schenker

It protects new vehicles from dust and rain. And it makes life difficult for thieves: the new Hccrrs closed car-carrying wagon is only available at DB Schenker.

The MINIs being driven from the closed car-carrying wagon onto the premises of Cuxport still bear their brand-new factory sheen. Manufactured in Graz, they were transported across Austria, through Germany and up to Cuxhaven. The smell of saltwater from the nearby North Sea hangs in the air. By ship, it’s only a stone’s throw from the mouth of the River Elbe to the vehicles’s destination in England. Up to 400,000 automobiles are transshipped annually at the terminal. Range Rovers destined for the continent, for example, arrive here from the opposite direction and wait to be loaded in one of the Hccrrs.

All-round protection.

Hccrrs? The “h” stands for covered wagons; the “cc” tells the expert that this wagon has end wall doors and its interior is designed for automobile transports; the “rr” simply identifies the carriage unit; and the “s” means that when it is fully laden, the wagon is engineered for speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. The first models of this innovative type of rail wagon began operating on behalf of DB Schenker in 2014. Usually they are deployed as block train shuttles between the plant and the port of export by automobile manufacturers like BMW or Porsche.

“This wagon was developed specifically to meet the requirements of DB Schenker’s customers,” says Christian Lang, divisional head of Finished Vehicles at DB Schenker Rail Automotive GmbH. The car-carrying wagon not only takes into account the automobile industry’s increasing demand for closed freight wagons, but also serves several key trends within this sector.

Vehicles with the potential to become genuine export hits are growing ever larger in size. High-class sports utility vehicles (SUVs), for example, are becoming increasingly popular. Thanks to their generous size and the fact that the height of the upper loading deck can be continuously adjusted, the two-part covered Hccrrs has almost twice the transport capacity of a conventional train with 20 double-pocket cars, transporting 180 instead of 100 vehicles.

These new two-part covered wagon units are also ideal for transporting particularly flat and wide luxury sports cars. The ruts that demarcate the lanes on the wagon’s interior have been designed so as to avoid damaging the expensive alloys on the low profile tires. The electro-mechanical loading platform was also developed in such a way that the low-lying chassis on these sports cars is not damaged during loading and unloading. And if one level is filled with flat-topped speedsters, then the wagon’s height leaves plenty of room for bulkier vehicles.

Its sheer size makes the new Hrrccs uniquely efficient. On account of its interior length of 26.99 meters, there is space enough to load twelve MINIs or ten new S-Class Mercedes vehicles. This constitutes a record in the ­industry!

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“A closed wagon is an enormous advantage, particularly for high-end passenger cars,” says Christian Lang, who has worked at Deutsche Bahn in various functions for 13 years. “The vehicles are protected from adverse external influences, be it rain or dust. We no longer have to deal with dirt from dispersion in wet weather, bird droppings, flash rust or abrasion debris from the catenaries.” Not to mention the dreaded sand drifts that swirl up in strong winds when trains pass construction sites or fields.

With the Hccrrs, damage to the car’s paintwork is a thing of the past. This all-round protection is due not only to the wagon’s closed form but also to improved insulation on doors, inter-car gangways, the floor and the roof. Various automobile manufacturers have conducted tests to ascertain how dust-free the wagons actually are. Special adhesive strips were attached to the interior of the Hccrrs prior to a transport operation and then analyzed in a chemical lab after the journey. “The result was conclusive,” says Lang, not without a certain amount of pride. “It clearly exceeded previous standards.”

Another effect, wholly welcome from an environmental aspect, is the savings in plastic sheets. “During conventional rail transports, high-end vehicles are usually protected by full-body plastic covers. That’s no longer necessary in the Hccrrs.”

These innovative wagons are manufactured in Saxony, at Waggonbau Niesky, a plant established in 1835 and steeped in tradition. The Hccrrs will be delivered to DB Schenker Rail by the end of 2015, at which point they will then be deployed throughout Europe. The wagons are operated by three consoles on each side, which control the loading platforms and raise and the roofs.

Michael Zerling is responsible for “Equipment Technical Quality Assurance” at DB Schenker Rail Automotive. During the introductory phase, he and his colleagues explain the operation of the Hccrrs to customers. “It’s basically child’s play as everything works at the push of a button.”

Zerling and his colleagues are always on hand if a customer has difficulty operating the Hccrrs or in the event of a malfunction. An emergency hotline is available around the clock. “And if we’re unable to solve the problem by giving advice over the phone or with the help of service providers, then we drive off ourselves to offer on-site assistance,” says Zerling. Two staff members based in Hanover are responsible for covering the northern European area, and three others in Frankfurt take care of the southern region.

The Hccrrs also fulfills the highest standards in terms of ergonomics and occupational safety. The drivers responsible for loading and unloading the vehicles can ­access the wagon from the side; the interior is well lit; staff members no longer have to kneel to secure the vehicles with chocks, as these can now be wedged in place with their feet, minimizing the risk of injury.

These 2×2 axle wagons also comply with the strict noise emission standards set by Deutsche Bahn, as they are equipped with “whisper brakes.” Christian Lang, a 42-year-old business graduate, explains: “Unlike conventional brake blocks made of gray cast iron, these don’t roughen the wheel tread when braking. This leads to a considerable reduction in the rolling noise of freight trains and thus cuts down on noise emissions.”

The engineers responsible for developing the 36-ton wagon focussed particularly on theft and vandalism protection. These car-carrying wagons are not immediately discernible as such. The doors can be locked and can only be opened if the roof has been raised. Additional protective metal sheets, referred to by experts as “surfboards” on account of their shape, are attached to the flexible middle of the wagon, thus providing even more break-in protection.

The MINIs have long since been unloaded from the train and are already on the ship heading for England. At the Cuxport, the final Range Rover – its vast dimensions almost making it the archetypal SUV – is slowly driven up the ramp onto the upper level of the Hccrrs: the doors are sealed and the train is ready for departure. After the first few deployments, Lang comes to the conclusion: “The Hccrrs has caught on. DB Schenker has already been awarded several long-term orders using these wagons. And we are in talks with other customers.”

Source: DB Schenker

 

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