We have been lucky enough to be involved with the Loughborough University “Repoint” project from an early stage.
The process of taking a project of such scale from concept to reality has been a great experience, as has that of working alongside a respected UK University research group. We were initially asked to create basic CAD models of the full Repoint stub switch design, however due to concerns about market reception a new concept was born – Repoint Light. It was only light in the way that a tablet computer may be a “light” version of a laptop, and the Control Systems Research Group were determined to retain as many design features contained within the full Repoint concept as possible while enabling the system to be retrofitted to a standard rail switch.
Working with the research group we produced an initial set of very basic concept CAD models. As usual these were very blocky and contained only the minimum of detail required to convey the design intent. This said, the first assembly model incorporated XXXX parts, each of which were developed from scratch.
We brought our models and explanations for form and function to support the Research Group at various meetings, receiving a vast array of feedback. Sifting through the feedback and starting to incorporate increasing detail with each iteration saw the CAD modelling become more intricate and assemblies included ever greater numbers of parts.
Towards the end of 2016 we assisted the Research Group in an optioneering exercise to assess the best power transfer mechanism. The options included belt drive, hydraulic, rack and pinion, epicyclic and spur and worm gear drives. The requirements for back driving the system in the event of a run-through being paramount, together with being hot-swappable for maintenance, resistant to the elements and utilising off-the-shelf parts, led us toward a twin gearmotor approach.
From mid 2017 to early 2018 we finalised the smaller details of the system to work with existing rail mountings and sit within the standard switch panel. Engineering drawings were produced and a manufacturing tender completed on behalf of Loughborough University. Prototype manufacture led to a steady stream of parts entering the lab for initial assembly and testing. We assisted with the mechanical assembly and those minor adjustments that always pop up with a first-off prototype of this complexity. Soon enough we had three active bearers assembled, tested and waiting for delivery to Progress Rail, Sandiacre.
Progress were kind enough to loan a large space in their yard for assembly of the Repoint switch panel, together with significant assistance in shunting and lifting various parts into place. We spent a number of days assisting the Loughborough researchers assembling the system and conducting initial testing, before it was ready for transport to the new home at Great Central Railway, Quorn.
Being part of the project had more perks when we were able to access site and record the below time-lapse footage of the switch panel being installed. This was followed by some adjustment and setting prior to the grand reveal on 31st January 2019.
With the prototype device fitted, set up and functioning as intended, the response from our client and industry officials was pleasing to say the least!