by Ted Elkins
A precision-engineering company has reduced the cost of building and
operating passenger monorails with a simple yet effective idea.
Severn Lamb Ltd (SLL) of the UK achieves this by changing the
electric motors used to power them, thus cutting operating,
maintenance and replacement costs.
Drawing on skills from a unique background in precision engineering
and model making, the company has notched up recent contracts
totalling over 40 million pounds sterling. By midsummer this year it
delivered the last of four advanced 120-passenger systems for
monorail service in Sunway City, an ultra-modern Malaysian town.
These were ordered by the SungeiWay Group of Kuala Lumpur, to avoid
congestion and grid-locked road-traffic.
SLL's value-for-money design is beating the best competition from
Europe and the United States. The company is now in negotiation for
large contracts in the US, Japan and the Far East.
Heinz Roosen, SLL's managing director, explains that passenger
monorails need no longer be priced beyond the means of district
authorities. ``Our engineers and designers have simplified the power
source and created a highly efficient system at much less cost,'' he
This has been achieved by changing from the direct current (DC)
motors used by existing manufacturers and adapting alternating
current (AC) motor technology to meet the need. ``More torque is
produced. AC motors require less maintenance and deliver at 12.5 per
cent of the DC cost,'' he says.
Fast-growing Severn Lamb Ltd is based near Stratford-upon-Avon,
English Midlands, where SLL was established in the 1950s. The firm's
skilled artists, designers, engineers and crafts people - some 85 in
number - can call on the inventive genius of top consultants in
nearby Coventry in a ``talent zone'' enclosing this ingenious engineering
city along with Cambridge and Oxford in southern England.
The SLL plant has engineering assembly halls and a monorail test
track alongside its office site. Artists and designers work together
blending nostalgia with futuristic dreams in a high-technology
creative studio that is similar to a Hollywood film set. They mix
concepts, colour and motion, and partner technology, electronics and
practicality to achieve outstanding engineering results.
The company's engineering past is evident from the detailed full-size
model of a jet aircraft engine alongside working drawings of bridges
and innovative industrial machinery of previous centuries. SLL has
been a high-precision model maker building miniature trains, ships,
aircraft, bridges, power generators, aircraft engines and more since
the early 1950s.
From this chrysalis it has emerged as a high-flier in the world offuturistic monorails, via designing exciting theme-park transport and
track and soft-wheel trams for resorts, parks and town centres.
''Nothing is more convincing of our expertise than the fine detail we
put into our scale models," says chief executive Michael Severn Lamb.
SLL's first diversion from models came with its theme-park leisure
transport, down-scaled passenger railways and soft-wheel trams.
Railway trains named "Rio Grande" and "Texan" with cowcatchers,
smoke-stacks, whistles and roomy viewing carriages, rolled off the
production line, brightly coloured and alive with nostalgia as well
as compelling modes of travel for leisurely sight-seeing.
Directors then decided to build mass transit monorails using the
precision-engineering skills of the firm's model-makers, and with a
determination to bring down the costs of this form of travel.
SLL now builds some of the most stylish, futuristic, reliable and
economical monorails of all.
The company's SL series monorail trains embody a peep into the space
age with streamlining reminiscent of "Mallard", the British steam-age
express locomotive of the 1950s that is still revered by train
enthusiasts the world over.
Today's SL passengers sit in railcars described as ``super efficient
high-volume people-movers'' enjoying comfort with all-round viewing
during their journey.
The main features of the system include composite construction,
wide areas of tinted double-glazed windows, automatic doors and
air-conditioning. The railcars are operated by a standard drive
system delivering 30 kilowatts from an AC motor on each bogie.
Brakes are normal regenerative, fail-safe electromechanical units.
Running along a guide way of fabricated steel-box section they can
handle a six per cent gradient and travel at 25 kilometres per hour soft tyres.