Highlighting South Africa’s technical capability in the rail sector – local heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist Booyco Engineering has been refocusing its rail-related expertise to international industry standards for the past 15 years. According to Booyco Engineering executive director Grant Miller, the company’s products and systems match the demands of leading industry players in Europe and the US.

Booyco Engineering’s local manufacturing facility is aligned with global best practice and its products meet compliance standards for the rail sector. Image credit: Booyco Engineering

Booyco Engineering’s local manufacturing facility is aligned with global best practice and its products meet compliance standards for the rail sector. Image credit: Booyco Engineering

While Booyco Engineering has been designing HVAC systems for the South African rail industry for over three decades, it has also been serving the world’s largest rail players for more than 15 years by meeting their exacting standards – including design, development, qualification and documentation.

“Having developed HVAC systems for the defence and mining sector, we understand the requirements for designing and manufacturing products for harsh operating conditions,” says Miller. “Our customised HVAC solutions for the local rail sector were based on our proven expertise.”

About 15 years ago, the company raised the bar even further while working with the large rail multi-nationals based in Europe, the US and China. Its local office of engineers and designers began aligning its engineering design and development processes with international rail industry standards.

“When South Africa’s rail utility started to move towards a more standards-driven approach, we ensured we were up to speed with all the standards and specifications that the world’s leading players required,” says Miller. “This meant that we were already familiar with the way of working required to meet the demanding standards specified by multi-national rail companies.”

This includes conducting extensive vibration and shock testing, airborne and structure borne noise testing, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing, and high and low temperature and humidity cycling testing ­– specifically to the standards of the rail sector. To fully leverage its expertise, Booyco Engineering’s in-house resources include over R8 million worth of specialised Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software for modelling factors such as the strength of components and structure-borne vibration.

“For instance, these tools allow us to demonstrate to rail companies that our HVAC systems will not transmit vibrations, which could create resonance in the train’s structure,” he says. “Our digital design verification using CFD and FEA allows us to ensure that the physical tests conducted are more or less a formality, saving both time and money.”

Among the global rail standards against which Booyco Engineering has qualified its HVAC products are EN14750 thermal comfort in urban and suburban rolling stock, EN14813 thermal comfort in driving cabs, EN13129 thermal comfort in main line rolling stock, EN61373 for shock and vibration tests, EN15085 for welding qualification, EN50155 for the electronic equipment qualification and EN50121 for EMC compliance testing, all of which are standards developed specifically for the rail industry.

Once the big global players could see the company’s level of professionalism and conformity with the highest standards, it was also asked to design a cooling tower for an electric locomotive. To date, it is the only South African firm which has successfully designed and manufactured this equipment locally, adding significantly to the railway’s South African local content targets.

“Stepping down and converting the catenary voltage in a locomotive generates considerable heat of up to 400 kW,” he says. “Our cooling tower design is capable of effectively ejecting that heat in a +50°C ambient through the radiators at an airflow rate of 10 cubic metres per second.”

He highlights that the cooling tower order was another important indicator of the company’s extensive local design and manufacturing capacity, placing it in a strong position to serve the country’s needs while meeting global industry standards.