Swiss snow blower for the world’s northernmost railway line


The Swedish Iron Ore Line is exposed to hard winters and was in need of a new snow blower. The Swiss company Zaugg AG Eggiwil replaced the obsolete blower with a newly developed snow-clearing rail vehicle, ensuring that the Iron Ore Line is able to operate all year round. But snowfall is not always as reliable as it is on the world’s northernmost railway line, and demand fluctuates. How does Zaugg deal with this?

03.04.2020

On the world’s northernmost railway line, the Malmbanan, which runs between Luleå in Sweden and Narvik in Norway, 27 million tonnes of iron ore are transported each year over a distance of 473 km. In order to keep pace with this enormous volume, the railway must continue to operate during the winter months. In winter, however, adverse weather conditions are a common feature, with storms leading to snow piled up several metres high. Snow blowers are therefore essential to keeping the railway running. However, the existing snow blower was not as young as it used to be and the Swedish infrastructure operator was therefore on the lookout for a new snow-clearing rail vehicle.

“We have no control over whether or not it snows, but we are able to make the most of it. That’s our mission.”
Daniel Frutiger, CEO

Swiss Quality for the Malmbanan

The contract was awarded to Zaugg AG Eggiwil, based in Eggiwil in the Canton of Bern. This comes as no surprise, as Zaugg manufactures impressive, technically sophisticated products. “Our equipment was used at the Olympic Games,” CEO Daniel Frutiger comments. Zaugg is a world leader in the development and manufacture of machines for clearing snow from roads, railways and airports and for grooming snow slopes. With 160 employees, Zaugg is an important employer in the Upper Emmental region.

Following a call for tenders, the company supplied the Swedish customer with a 70-tonne snow blower locomotive that is able to clear 7 500 tonnes of snow per hour from the Malmbanan. The massive machine cost CHF 9.5 million and was developed, designed and manufactured by Zaugg.

That was back in 2016. As the buyer required another machine and knew it could rely on the quality of Zaugg’s products, it ordered a second locomotive in 2019 following another call for tenders. SERV covered both transactions with working capital insurance, pre-shipment risk insurance and contract bond insurance as well as with a counter guarantee.

A Niche Market That is Exposed to the Elements

Despite Zaugg’s success, its business also has its pitfalls. “We operate in a small niche market,” Daniel Frutiger explains. Zaugg manufactures its products in small batches and is exposed to the vagaries of the weather in a very literal sense. “We have no control over whether or not it snows, but we are able to make the most of it. That’s our mission,” says Daniel Frutiger. The number of orders the company receives varies as much as the winter weather. A further factor is that the number of days of snow cover has decreased by 25 to 50 per cent over the last 30 years. This has led Zaugg to expand its range of products, and the company has for some time now also been developing equipment to clean highly soiled ground areas. Furthermore, SERV products enable Zaugg to take on orders of such a magnitude as this delivery to Sweden.