Thursday, 9 July 2015

Neil Ritchie, ABB's Division Manager, Discrete Automation & Motion for UK & Ireland, writes: Being stuck in a lift or a mine isn’t something anybody looks forward to so Llechwedd Slate Caverns in North Wales made sure it wouldn’t happen to their guests.

Ok, that was a little dramatic and whilst there was never any real danger involved, the railway that used to transport visitors down into the old Victorian mine was prone to reliability problems. This not only required guests to be evacuated when it failed, but the complexity of the system meant that each failure usually involved several days of expensive downtime while the problem was diagnosed.
In addition, the controls were needlessly complicated and the ride would sometimes stall due to the incorrect relay sequences being selected.

It was decided that a new control system was needed to enable the caverns and its railway, the steepest of its kind in Britain, to remain operational for many years to come.

An ABB regenerative drive was installed and set up to control the same relays that were already being used on the ride. Part of the project involved installing a larger motor, giving the ride the capacity to carry 23 people as opposed to 18 previously.

The controls were made simpler so no retraining of staff was required. In fact they were made so simple that the caverns no longer have to employ highly trained control specialists just to operate the railway.

The control system now knows exactly where the passenger vehicle is at all times, and performs an automatic safety check so that the driver cannot move the vehicle without the doors being closed. The ABB drive is housed above ground in its own IP65 cabinet. If a fault occurs, the driver must reset a trigger to acknowledge the event, logging it for diagnostic purposes.

Then it’s simply a case of telling ABB the fault code, and we can then quickly tell them how to isolate and repair it. Since being installed, downtime has been reduced to virtually nil, requiring very little maintenance and costing much less to run.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns were hugely pleased with what is now quite possibly the most advanced passenger cable way in the UK, and we’re sure that guests will be equally thrilled at no longer having to worry about being stuck down a Victorian mine!

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