Scorpions on the Forest of Dean Railway
In February 1999, a new concept of railway track maintenance for the 21st century was unveiled at Parkend, when 2 brand new "Scorpions" arrived for training purposes on the Forest of Dean Railway. The Scorpion is a combined ballast regulator and flailing machine, composed of a Mercedes Benz Unimog 4 x 4 road vehicle adapted for railway track maintenance.
Amey Fleet Services purchased four of these worlds first machines from Outreach PLC of Larbet in Scotland. Amey has been invited to use the Forest of Dean Railway as a training ground for their crews. Two Scorpions, each with its own trailer containing the ploughs and flailing equipment, arrived by road from Scotland. A team of instructors from MTR Ltd of Edinburgh were on hand to supervise the training.
The Scorpions use hydraulic systems extensively on board and they are fitted with two close circuit television cameras to enable the driver to see reverse movements and trackside when working on the line. They are also fitted with hoists to lift their accessories from the road trailer. The Scorpion is capable of 50 mph in road service when towing its trailer to site. Track speed is 50 kph maximum, but will be restricted to 20 kph on the rail track system. The transfer from road to rail requires some level ground alongside a track to allow the unit to set itself astride the track. Four sets of small steel wheels are then lowered onto the rails, this being achieved very quickly. Then the hoist is used to lift the attachments from the road trailer to be bolted on. When the job is completed, the procedure is reversed quickly and without fuss and allows the unit to move from location to location without unduly interfering with normal rail traffic.
The prototype work for Scorpion was developed in Scotland on the Bo'ness & Kiniel Railway.