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New Monorail Technology
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 says.

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, funnel 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.      Copyright ©1999, LLC