BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) engineers have designed and manufactured a load bank, a critical piece of equipment used in workshops to test locomotives.
In a statement yesterday, NRZ public relations manager Nyasha Maravanyika, said the new equipment will see the parastatal save about US$500 000.
“Using material already available in the NRZ workshops, engineers in Bulawayo decided to design a prototype load bank. With a zero budget, the team used material available in the NRZ stores and from decommissioned locomotives to fashion the load bank,” he said
“Working part-time on the project, the team took one year and a month to finish the prototype which was successfully tested on 20 and 21 February 2021,” Maravanyika said.
Maravanyika said the project was an example of import substitution programmes being undertaken by the NRZ Mechanical Engineers Workshops to save the country scarce foreign currency by manufacturing equipment in-house.
He said a new load bank costs more than US$500 000, excluding freight charges.
With the economy hit by a serious shortage of foreign currency, the NRZ is undertaking import substitution projects to reduce the import bill, Maravanyika said.
A load bank is a machine that mimics a load on wagons to test whether a locomotive has adequate power to pull the load.
The test is conducted in static conditions in workshops before a repaired locomotive is approved into service.
Putting a locomotive through the load bank allows engineers and technicians to check whether the repairs have been done properly.
The NRZ had load banks at its major workshops at Bulawayo, Dabuka, Lochinvar and Mutare.
These were installed in the 1960s and for now, the one at Dabuka is still operational, Maravanyika said.
He said the other such equipment broke down in the 1990s and locomotives were now being taken to Gweru for testing while in some cases, they were released into service without the requisite tests.