Modified Land Rover to Clean Branch Lines this Autumn

Modified Land Rover to Clean Branch Lines this Autumn

In Devon, Network Rail is using specially adapted Land Rover Defenders to clear the line of leaves this autumn.

Leaf mulch is cleaned off the rails as the machine travels thanks to specially mounted wire brushes. Next, a layer of citrus-based treatment is applied to help brake up the leaves. Finally, a the rails are coated in dry sand, which is where the name ‘Sand Rover’ originates from, to help trains grip the track.

The Sand Rovers are modified Land Rover Defender 110s that have been adapted by Aquarius Railroad Technologies Limited. They were trialled in the Tarka line from Barnstable to Exeter in 2020. In 2022, the Sand Rovers will be back on track across Devon supporting Rail Head Treatment Trains (RHTT) and traction gel applicators.

Managing director of Aquarius Railroad Technologies Scott Harrison stated “We’re delighted that the Sand Rover has been so successful for the team in Devon. We understand that seasonal weather can be a real concern when trying to keep tracks safe for rolling stock, and ensuring a seamless service is of the utmost importance to Network Rail and operators alike. Sand Rovers are available for deployment across the UK, and we are proud to report that they can access even the hardest to reach areas of track. If a leaf can fall there, a Sand Rover can get there!”

Image credit: Aquarius Railroad Technologies Limited

Network Rail’s infrastructure maintenance engineer, Craig Hocking said: “Our successful trial of the Sand Rover on the Tarka line in 2020 and Dartmoor line last year significantly reduced autumn-related delays for our passengers, which is why we’re fully utilising it this year to combat leaf fall. The Sand Rover is ideal for use on branch lines in Devon that see high leaf fall I’m levels and allows us to proactively concentrate on specific areas and treat them quickly at the touch of a button from the cab of the vehicle.”

“This year we’re pleased to be using the Sand Rover again at night when the trains aren’t running, with its proven track record of delay reduction. We’ll also be using our special treatment trains across Devon and Cornwall to clean the rails throughout autumn and our teams will be ready to respond to any issues that arise to minimise any delays for passengers.”

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Last Updated on October 26, 2022 by Lewis


Hello my name is lewis and I am the editor of LWrail train magazine. I manage the LWrail social media, YouTube channel and write most of the stories on this website.

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