Each of the 44 MTU engines that had been powering Siemens Eurorunner locomotives in Lithuania for the last eight years had 24,000 hours of service on the clock. So it was time for a rejuvenation treatment – or, to put it another way, the MTU reman process. This involves restoring the engines to as-new condition. Remanufactured or 'reman' engines are as good as new ones but considerably less expensive and still come with the same warranty.
There is a smell of metal and oil, but it is surprisingly bright and clean in the locomotive shed in the south of Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. A subsidiary of the Estonian company Baltic Marine Group, an MTU distributor, had the shed renovated only three years ago. At ‘Vilniaus lokomotyvu remonto depas’ as it is called, maintenance and installation work is carried out on behalf of Lithuanian Railways (Lietuvos Geležinkeliai).
Two Siemens type LG ER 20 CF locomotives are standing in the railway depot. On the left is ER 20016 and on the right its sister locomotive, ER 20032. They are two of the 44 Eurorunner locomotives that have been in service pulling goods trains in the Baltic state since October 2007. The beating heart of the locomotive is a 16V Series 4000 R41 engine from MTU.
A 16-cylinder unit weighing 7,880 kg, it has helped deliver smooth-running freight services in Lithuania. "Lithuania is not a big country," explains Naglis Vyšniauskas, director rolling stock in the freight services department of Lithuanian Railways, with a smile. "We don’t have many routes. The most important is the link between Vilnius and the Baltic port of Klaipeda. It is divided into two parts with Radviliškis, where the Eurorunners’ home depot is located, in the middle. And then there is the transit line between Belarus and the Russian exclave, Kaliningrad. The rest of the goods traffic is local and supplies sites and businesses in Lithuania."
Economical and sustainable
In July 2013, Lithuanian Railways launched a joint project with Siemens, Baltic Marine Group and MTU to overhaul the 44 locomotives and engines. By September 2015, all of the engines, each of which had completed roughly 24,000 hours of service to date, had to be successively removed from the locomotives at the Vilnius depot and sent by truck to the MTU Reman Technology Centre in Magdeburg, MTU’s lead facility worldwide for standardized reman processes. The plant specializes in remanufacturing, i.e. standardized industrial reconditioning and complete overhaul of MTU engines. The advantage of reman engines is that they cost less than new units but have the same warranty. What is more, in the course of the complete overhaul, each engine benefits from all technical upgrades so that clients can be certain they are receiving a product with the very latest technical advances. In Magdeburg, the incoming engines are made fit and ready for a new life. The first part of the process is to completely dismantle and examine them. Wear parts and elastomer or defective components are replaced, but the majority of the engine parts such as cylinder heads, crankshafts or the crankcase are reconditioned – which is a sustainable process because no raw materials have to be used to produce new components. After successfully completing a bench test, the engines are also repainted, which means they not only meet the same specifications as an equivalent model just off the production line, they also look brand new. Just like the reman unit in locomotive number ER 20032. The Eurorunner’s 2,000 kW traction unit shines brightly in its freshly applied blue livery and is once again fully prepared for service on Lithuanian freight routes.
"The money that we save can be invested elsewhere."
Werner Berger is one of the MTU staff looking after the Lithuanian reman project. "This is our first contract for reman engines from a national railway," he says not without a certain amount of pride.
The process was tailored exactly to Lithuanian Railways’ requirements. Two engines at a time underwent the reman process in Magdeburg, while two so-called "swing engines" were used in Lithuania. These were units that had already been reconditioned and were ready to be fitted in the locomotive. "This ensured that the out-of-service times for our locomotives were kept as short as possible," explains Naglis Vyšniauskas.
The financial aspect in particular was the crucial factor in the decision to opt for reman engines. "The money that we save by using reman units," outlines Vyšniauskas, "can be invested elsewhere." As he is talking, the chuffing and whistling of a steam locomotive suddenly disturbs the quiet of the office. The noise comes from a wall clock. On the stroke of each hour, a miniature train runs around the clock face, its sound effects attracting attention.
Out of the locomotive and onto the wooden pallet inside two minutes
In the locomotive shed in Vilnius, Arunas Žekas and Giedrius Pranckunas of the Baltic Marine Group service team are in the process of lifting the old engine out of ER 20016. Giedrius Pranckunas moves the big yellow overhead gantry crane over the locomotive by remote control. By the time it is in position, his colleague Arunas Žekas has attached heavy lifting chains to the engine block. Within a few moments, the heavyweight is hanging from the hook and being carefully lifted out of the locomotive. The fact that it seems to sway quite considerably in the process does not worry the experienced mechanics – apparently that is quite normal. Finally the engine is hovering just an arm’s width over the wooden shipping pallet. From start to finish the operation has hardly taken two minutes. Now some high-precision manoeuvring is required to position the steel colossus on the four bolts of the wooden base. "That’s no problem," smiles Arunas Žekas. "After 30 engines, it’s just a routine operation for us." The two mechanics rock the engine a little and very soon it has seated itself satisfactorily. Arunas Žekas grabs a large spanner and tightens the nuts onto the bolts.
Beside him, engineer Arminas Vilbrantas and the director of the Lithuanian branch of Baltic Marine Group, Andžej Mickevic, observe the procedure. "MTU has an excellent reputation in remanufacturing," says Andžej Mickevic. "They provide support if there are any problems and respond very quickly. Every day matters to us and our clients, Lithuanian Railways." Arminas Vilbrantas adds, "Everything slotted perfectly into place and is running very smoothly. Our partnership with MTU is very solid and things are dealt with in a very friendly way." Herman Schirmer, who looks after the reman project from the Friedrichshafen end, likewise values his colleagues from Estonia and Lithuania: "The team in Vilnius works very self-sufficiently. The work that Baltic Marine Group does as distributor is text-book."
“The engines are in good hands”
The reman project in Lithuania took two years to complete, and Naglis Vyšniauskas is more than satisfied: "We not only have a partnership, we also have a really close collaborative relationship with MTU and Baltic Marine Group. In these two companies we have partners we can rely on." Naglis Vyšniauskas saw that trust vindicated when MTU invited its partners to the Reman Technology Centre in Magdeburg. "I was glad to see that our engines are in good hands. The plant there has high-tech equipment of the very best quality. And in our discussions I also found out how the MTU experts assess the condition of our engines after such a long period of duty. The positive feedback from MTU about the condition of our engines and, therefore, the standard of work of our maintenance staff gave me a very good feeling."
Since the first reman engine returned to service in Lithuania in August 2013, it has already clocked up 13,000 hours on the track without the slightest problem – as expected. And the last overhauled engine is also back in service – providing the power the shiny red locomotives need to pull heavy goods trains across the Baltic state.