In recent years, German company iSAM AG, which is based in
Mülheim an der Ruhr, has become prominent in the supply of
electrical equipment for train loading stations.
The company is currently upgrading two train loading stations
for iron ore and coal at Hansaport, Hamburg’s iron ore and coal
terminal. Also, in May this year, the EMO (Europees Massagoed –
Overslagbedrijf) terminal in Rotterdam placed an order with the
German bulk automation specialist for the complete electrical
equipment for its new train loader.
For train loading, iSAM AG has focused from the outset on
true ‘operatorless’ automation, i.e. once the train has been
handed over to the system, all movements of the train as well as
the loading process itself are controlled without human
intervention. The details differ depend on the type of train
loader and the material loaded. However, all systems are based
on an elaborate train tracking system.
One of the key challenges during the automation was to
measure exactly the position and speed of the individual railcars.
As the distance between the railcars does not remain constant
when the train stops or accelerates the speed of the locomotive
provides only an initial indication on the movement of the train
itself. To overcome this problem 2D laser scanners from SICK
were installed before and after the train loading station as well
as in the station itself. They provide not only the exact position
of the individual railcars, but they can also detect material which
has remained in the railcar during the unloading process and
identify damaged railcars which may cause problems, especially
when loading high-volume materials like coke and coal.
For the loading process itself, there are currently two options.
For the loading of iron ore or mixed coal and iron ore stations,
the material flow is controlled in real-time during the discharge
from two weighing bunkers. This ensures an equal loading of the
railcar during the entire process. For weight-limited materials
(i.e. iron ore and most steam coals), the load limit of the railcar
is normally utilized better than 0.5 t or 99.5%. For volumelimited
materials (like coke and most metallurgical coals),
specialized algorithms ensure that the railcars are loaded as fully
as possible within the limits specified by the railway operator.
For pure coal loading stations (or any other mostly volumelimited
material) a second design has become popular in recent
years. A specially shaped hatch is put on top of the railcar and
the complete load is discharged into this hatch while the train
moves through the station. An elaborate algorithm decides —
based on train speed, railcar type and material loaded — at what
time the flap must be opened where only fractions of a second
can make the difference whether the material will fit in the
railcar and whether it will be properly (i.e. symmetrically)
distributed. Using this system, EMO has increased the capacity
of its existing train loader from 2,500tph (tonnes per hour) to
4,000tph without changing a single piece of the mechanical
The weighing system is again common for both solutions.
Using the latest generation of Siemens SIWAREX equipment, it is
possible to provide certified loading results directly in the PLC
and transmit them automatically to the railway operators.
As of now, two systems are in operation at the Port of
Hamburg, two at the Port of Rotterdam with one more just
ordered. So far, no competitor has implemented a similar system
in the very demanding environment of an import sea terminal
with material ranging from the heaviest iron ore to the highest
volume coke.