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The Challenge

Kiwi Rail, the largest Rail transport operator in New Zealand, required support from McCulloch Rail whilst working on their major Northland Rail Upgrade (NRU). The NRU project offered various challenges in situations where traditional methods, or most track machinery would not be suitable, mostly due to dimension or weight restrictions. A large part of the project involved 13 Tunnels which spanned in length from 100 Metres to 1 km. The intention of this part of the project was to lower the ground and lay a new track in order to create height in the tunnels for high cubed freight containers which have never previously been able to navigate through these tunnels. As the tunnels were first bored almost 100 years ago their dimensions are very strict, limiting entry for most machinery that would conventionally be used to lay track. A second difficulty which Kiwi Rail were faced with was 5 bridges on the line. These were all being renewed but the weight restrictions on these bridges prohibited most traditional plant from access.


McCulloch Rail are world leaders in bespoke track replacement and renewal products. This enables them to carry out worldwide rail track maintenance and construction projects, whilst completing them in less time with reduced operational costs by the use of innovative rail handling and movement equipment.

During the NRU Project Kiwi Rail required a solution to replacing all the track efficiently and safely throughout the networks tunnels and bridges. After extensive research into solutions and methods used around the world Kiwi Rail opted to go for the McCulloch Rail Panel Lifter system along with 2x McCulloch Rail Trac Rail Transposers (TRT).

This would allow them to safely and effectively renew the track panels throughout the tunnels as the remotely operated Panel Lifting machines can extend and retract there width and height to suit the dimensions of the various sized tunnels. The TRT machines were perfect for re railing on the bridged sections as their small dimensions and weight hold no restrictions to access which was previously an issue with other plant.


The purpose of this project is to upgrade the Northern Freight Line in New Zealands north island. This allows larger freight trains to run on the line, ultimately increasing produce reaching the more isolated northern territories and helping reduce emissions and congestion on the roads as less road freight will need to make the journey.

Through the introduction of the McCulloch Rail Panel Lifter System and the TRT’s, Kiwi Rail along with their contracting partners have seen huge advantages with their production and in fact finished all 13 tunnels ahead of the timescale originally set out.

During operation of the Panel Lifters, they managed to renew the track with in the tunnels in record time. This is something that would not have been possible before as the previous method was to use large amount of personnel over longer periods of time. All the 13 tunnels are now complete and this release the Panel Lifters and TRT’s to be used on other projects, increasing productivity throughout other regions in New Zealand.

PNR Rail

The Challenge

PNR RailThe ChallengePNR Railworks, Canada’s largest and most experienced full service railroad contractor, approached Unipart Rail as they were looking to improve productivity whilst working on the high profile Metrolinx Toronto CANPA Trackworks.

This project had a number of fairly unique challenges. The first was in relation to site location as the lay down yard for construction of the new panels was 2km away from the installation location. Access from public roadways and other trackside property was also very limited.The second was the very high work output that was required during short windows. Only 4 major outages would be allowed to complete the works, which required a solution to remove 640 metres of track, fully excavate track beds, install over 300 metres of pre-built track panels and install up to 4 Number 20 Turnouts in less than 35hrs on a live train corridor.The SolutionUnipart Rail have formed an alliance with McCulloch Rail, leaders in bespoke track replacement and renewal solutions, enabling worldwide rail track maintenance and construction projects to be completed in less time with reduced operational costs by the use of innovative rail handling and movement equipment.During this project, the 4 outages would close Metrolinx busiest network corridor. As a result of this, PNR required a quick and safe solution for removing and replacing panels that would maximise output during the weekend closures.

PNR recognised that they required a new approach to complete the project in a more efficient way. They chose to deploy the McCulloch Rail Panel Lifter System as it would enable them to accelerate the removals and installation of the track panels.Designed by McCulloch Rail and successfully used across the UK Rail network for over 9 years, the Panel Lifter system has revolutionised the method of replacing rail panels.These innovative machines allow replacement of rails to be completed in a safe and swift manner with greater efficiency in comparison to all other methods.The ResultThe purpose of this project is to improve track speeds, add switching capability, reduce maintenance, and re-signalize one of Metrolinx busiest and oldest plants.Through the introduction of the McCulloch Rail Panel Lifter System, PNR have seen huge benefits in terms of their productivity and their output has rapidly increased; enabling them to successfully deliver the project for Metrolinx.Upon deployment of the system, they removed 500ft of track in less than 30 minutes, something that they had not been able to accomplish with traditional equipment and methods.

Customer Feedback“So far we have used the machines on 3 different major track outages and we found them extremely useful. The time it takes to complete a track demo has been reduced by 50% when compared to our old method.”“The Panel Lifters have given us flexibility for use on this project as well as in some other challenging areas on the Metrolinx network. Our people have adapted easily and like to use them and they certainly seperate us from the competition.”“There is over 200km of corridor and over 1000km of mainline track that will be required to be upgraded and replaced long term. The only way this can be achieved and output maximised is by using innovative methods and we are excited to continue to use the McCulloch Rail Equipment in the future.”Arjun LangfordProject Director, PNR