For years, WAGO has been a fixed component in the railway industry – and even a global leader in the field of spring pressure connection technology. Richard Markus explains the reasons for this. In the interview, the Marketing Manager discussed the future of the sector, weight problems for rail-mounted terminal blocks, and the thickness of a human hair.
WAGO is a global leader in electrical connection technology in the rail sector. How did the terminal block get onto the rail?
At the Hanover Fair in 1977, we introduced the first CAGE CLAMP® rail-mounted terminal blocks in the world; they became an international industry standard in electrical connection technology. One could almost say that the German national railway company (Deutsche Bahn) was just waiting for this innovation. That was the year that they ordered 540 new railway cars from AEG, in which WAGO terminal blocks with CAGE CLAMP® connection technology were also on board.
That was 35 years ago. Which old and new challenges does WAGO face?
Modern trains reach peak velocities of more than 400 kph. An enormous output, if you think about it, since in comparison to suspended railways, iron is still contacting iron, namely wheels on rails. The vibrations and shocks that occur are enormous: Our products not only have to endure this, they have to do so maintenance-free. In addition to this, weight plays a large role for all components used in railway travel, and it quickly becomes a criterion for exclusion. Small design and careful selection of materials are also decisive for electrical connection technology.
Speed on the one hand, safety on the other. National and international regulations are strict ...
... and WAGO products are fully compliant – for use on board as well as in the infrastructure. The rail network belonging to the German rail system alone extends to almost 34,000 kilometers, and includes more than 70,000 crossings and points as well as 5,700 passenger railway stations. Errors or failures are not acceptable: not in the signaling technology or in the trains. This requires absolutely reliable connection technology. Our compliance with the stringent standards governing railways – for example EN 50155, EN 61373, EN 60068, and EN 45545 – is one of the reasons for the broad acceptance that WAGO products have received in rail-based traffic applications. The rail industry’s extremely high demands are not a problem for WAGO: If anything, our technology is most at home where the demands are highest.
WAGO has not been the only manufacturer of spring-clamp terminal blocks for a long time. How has the company managed to rise above the competition?
We have the largest product portfolio and the most experience in the sector of screwless connection technology. For decades, our spring clamps have safely and reliably held every connection from 0.08 to 95 mm² (AWG 28– 4/0). The proof lies in the 540 passenger railway cars, built by AEG at the end of the 70’s, and which are still in use today – in the meantime, they have been completely overhauled multiple times, both inside and out; however, they are all still equipped with that first batch of WAGO terminal blocks. In material tests, in spite of the decades long continuous endurance stress, not the slightest bit of damage was detected – the terminal blocks might as well be new! Also: 0.08 mm² is no thicker than a human hair.
What possibilities do you see opening up for railway traffic in the coming years?
Due to the finite nature of fossil fuels, the increasingly congested airspace, primarily over Europe, and the rising level global urbanization, railway travel will gain in importance in the next few years. At the moment, Asia is the largest market in this sector for WAGO, as the railway network will expand by more than 22,000 km between now and 2025. Europe follows in second place with a planned expansion of 18,000 km. But, in the Near East, Russia, South America, Africa, even as far away as New Zealand, there are innumerable high-speed and regional trains, street cars, and subway networks as well as an enormous demand for locomotives for freight traffic that will also travel on these railway lines. In addition, signaling technology cannot be forgotten: Without it, nothing functions, and WAGO’s technology is also deployed here.
That’s a lot of movement. What strategies will WAGO use to remain out front?
We naturally put our products in first place, which have already made a name for themselves – they are quasi constant companions for trains. However, quality alone is no longer sufficient: Customer-focused and tailored solutions likewise play important roles. For years, WAGO has been establishing a global network of specialists who work closely with manufacturers and suppliers. Then we add truly comprehensive service, for example with smartDESIGNER for project planning. Considered all together, we remain very optimistic that we will continue to chug along in front.
Text: Jens Herrmann, Stefan Keggenhoff, WAGO