A job with us
I hadn’t really ever given much thought to the subject of energy and overhead power. But when I visited Mario Beck, I learned lots of new and exciting things.
The new Infrastructure Support Point (ISP) has been set up between the main A28 road and the Landquart River – the “Gateway to Graubünden”. Whenever I go past the building on the train, my gaze is drawn to the ISP, but this was the first time I had actually approached the impressive building over the pedestrian bridge.
Several tracks lead to the parking hall, which accommodates the service vehicles of the overhead contact lines, the cable service and the Landquart railway service. By going through one of the material stores of the Energy and Overhead Line Service Department we reached the joint offices of the individual departments, where we met some of the other team members. Everywhere I went I was introduced as a candidate for the job of a service technician, but nobody really believed that. Probably because there aren’t many women working in this area.
I felt the building with its long corridors resembled something of a maze. But I made sure I stuck close to Mario because, without a badge, I couldn't get in or out of anywhere. One floor higher are the extensive office premises, as the building is used simultaneously as an office and industrial building. Differently coloured cabinets for different departments separate the open-plan office somewhat. The plants create a more homely atmosphere. The almost ceiling-to-floor windows, which darken automatically when the sun shines, provide a clear view of Prättigau from where Mario works. The meeting rooms are also equipped with state-of-the-art technology. You can control just about anything with an in-built touchscreen. Construction work is still being carried out at various parts of the building and the office spaces also appear a little deserted at present. But after the corona crisis, this will no doubt be a bustling hub.
Our first appointment of the day was a session on oil spills, together with employees from the infrastructure, rolling stock and safety divisions. Naturally, it was a Microsoft Teams meeting. Incidents were discussed, the exchange of information between the divisions analysed, and finally measures defined to reduce accidents with oil and manage them better.
After a short break, we went straight on to the next weekly meeting. Every week they discuss the overall planning of the different overhead contact line construction sites and projects on the Rhaetian Railway network. This includes the scheduling of both staff and machines, and any necessary postponements or extensions of projects. For this purpose, and this time in person, the site managers attend the meeting as do the project managers from time to time. The detailed plan for the coming week is finalised and a provisional plan for the week after is made so that employees know whether they will be doing day or night shifts.
A general difficulty with Mario's work is that his regular working hours do not overlap with the night shifts of the field staff. That's why one day a week Mario sometimes works up to around midnight so he can drop by the construction sites and be available to answer any questions the staff may have. In this way he nurtures his relations with the staff and knows that it gives everyone the possibility of personal exchange on a regular basis.
Once the weekly planning had been finalised, stomachs were very definitely starting to rumble. But to actually go to lunch, we had to grab bikes from the ISP and rode off leisurely towards Landquart station. The roof terrace of the ISP offers a beautiful panoramic view and an excellent place for coffee breaks and lunch.
That sounds like leisure time but in our case it was of course to do with work. Because in the afternoon we had to deal with two internal messages. We grabbed a helmet and safety vest and checked the first reported event at Castrisch station.
Even for me as a layman the problem became immediately clear when I looked up at the overhead line. What is referred to as a cable hanger, connecting the catenary wire with the contact wire, had become separated and had wrapped itself around the catenary wire. Since this is not exactly an acute problem, the hanger will be reattached to the overhead contact line as part of the next annual inspection. If the cable hanger had been torn at the top of the catenary wire and had thus been hanging down on the overhead line, this would have been an urgent problem as the pantograph of a vehicle could become entangled in it. After a photo of the problem was taken, we checked the whole of the station. Mario made a few practised visual checks and explained various things about the general construction of the overhead lines, switch posts, earthing, foundations, etc.
Once we had dealt with the issue at Castrisch station, our trip took us on to Felsberg through the beautiful Rhine Gorge. A message had been received from here that a protective jacket was missing from the box between the tracks. We soon sorted that problem out. Here I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a professional looking photo taken of me in my protective jacket, gloves and helmet. I pretended I was busy laying the contact line to earth with the earthing rod.
After our short job out in the field, we arrived back in Landquart just in time for the last meeting of the day – an inspection of flatcars. And that was the end of my interesting visit to a different division.