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Radio control in mine railway

Radio control has streamlined the process of loading and unloading materials and has improved the operator’s workplace safety at material stations in the Borynia Section of the Borynia-Zofiówka Mine. This innovative solution implemented in the JSW mine has been the first of its kind in Poland.

photos: Dawid Lach

In the Borynia Section, transporting assemblies equipped with radio control operate at the 950m and 838m levels, which are critical locations of the mine. It took one year to develop the control system in its present form. Now, a remote control allows not only to drive a locomotive, but also to steer the transporting assembly, i.e. the “carrying beams”, on which carts, containers or materials are suspended directly. The current hydraulic control of the beams is performed from a distance limited by cable length, which reduces the mobility of the operator carrying out the loading operation. 

“The impulse for the action came from the reinforcement and liquidation works, as we transported elements of powered supports. With such a large tonnage of materials, a winch operator is placed squarely in the danger zone during loading and unloading, where the hook can break, the material can unfasten or the winch brake give out. That is why we moved the operator away to ensure safe distance from the materials being loaded. Moreover, a worker standing farther away has a wider perspective and can see in advance whether the material is properly hooked in terms of the center of gravity, or whether winch chains should be arranged or hooked up differently," says Dariusz Piżyk, Underground Transport Manager at the Borynia Section.

Radio control allows one to control the first or second winch independently or, as needed, to control two winches at the same time. The radio control module is located in a specially designed pull rod between the beams. The pull rods connecting the individual beams have received an additional function: they are no longer used just to couple the individual beams, but they also protect the solenoid valves and steer the beams.
At the dispatch and reception stations, in order to increase the efficiency of loading operations, the suspended railway rails are installed at a height exceeding 3 meters. With hydraulic control, special platforms had to be built to allow the operator to access the manifold. With radio control, no additional technical solutions are needed. The operator stands on the floor and uses the remote control to raise and lower winch chains from a safe distance.

“The idea was to streamline the process of loading and unloading, while at the same time improving the operator’s workplace safety," states Dariusz Piżyk. One of the benefits of this solution is also the elimination of the monobloc manifold and hydraulic lines hanging under the beam, which increase the risk of being caught and damaged during transport,” he adds.

The remote control is very easy to operate. “The remote control is equipped with intuitive buttons, and the beams to be controlled are numbered sequentially, starting with the engine,” says Bogdan Matusik, an employee of the GKTb branch. “It is worth noting that we have an emergency switch on the remote control, which further increases security of the loading process,” adds Artur Kupis, a GKTb branch employee.

“We have had feedback from the crew that the solution has been received positively, which is our small success. Today we are using two railway sets with radio control. We can expect a third one soon,”says Dariusz Piżyk. 

The beam is manufactured by Urządzenia i Konstrukcje S.A., while Becker-Warkop is responsible for developing and installing the module. Currently, the radio control module can be installed in the beam only in Becker-Warkop locomotives. With the advantages of radio control clearly visible, further implementations can be expected at the company’s other units operating such locomotives or those that decide to purchase them. The advantages of this solution should also encourage other manufacturers to adapt their locomotives to use radio-controlled beams.

Radio control is safer, and the operator is able to load materials precisely.
The radio control module is built into the pull-rod between the beams.
Artur Kupis and Matusik Bogdan – loading operators from the GKTb branch.
Hydraulic control of the beams is performed from a distance limited by cable length.
Monobloc manifold with hydraulic lines.

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