Alpine sends Roadheaders to Russia for Olympic Preparation

Alpine sends Roadheaders to Russia for Olympic Preparation

Hosting the Olympic Games is a sure way to garner international attention for the host nation. Much like the elaborate preparations for both infrastructure and venues in Beijing in 2008, Russia has big plans to demonstrate to the world that this former superpower can still throw a heck of party.

To this end, the country has embarked on an ambitious, multi-billion dollar effort to transform the relatively small port city of Sochi and the
nearby Caucasus Mountains into a world-class Olympic venue for the 2014 Winter Games. Major improvements to the region’s transportation system include bypass roads, bridges and more than 15 tunnels of various sizes and lengths for cars and high-speed rail lines.

Due to the heterogeneous and frequently unknown geologic conditions in the region, roadheaders with their rapid mobilization and ability to precisely excavate tunnels of nearly any cross-section will be playing a major role.

In August 2009, Alpine Equipment, State College, Pa., delivered and commissioned a model ABM330-K roadheader in Sochi, Russia. Procured through Alpine’s Russian agent, Balum Inc., the roadheader was purchased by underground contractor ZAO Uzhnoye Gorno Stroitelnoye Upravleniye to complement its fleet of roadheaders.

This 55-ton knuckle-boom roadheader has a vertical cutting range of 7.16 m (23.5 ft) with 5.33 m (17.5 ft) above track and 1.83 m (6 ft) below track level. Maximum cutting width is 8.94 m (29.3 ft). With the knuckle boom, the roadheader is suitable for New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM). Additionally, the knuckle boom allows sumping of the cutterhead without tramming the roadheader, and it is useful for pulling muck onto the loading apron and conveyor.

The machine is configured so it can power hydraulic transverse cutterheads from 140 kW (190 hp) to 240 kW (321 hp). The cutterhead is driven by a 261 kW (350 hp) electro-hydraulic hydrostatic power pack. The base machine hydraulics, including chain conveyor and star wheel loaders, are driven by a 123 kW (165 hp) electro-hydraulic power pack.

The hydraulically driven cutterheads have the ability to self-adjust to rock conditions; running higher drum RPM for soft material and lower RPM for harder rock, thereby maximizing production. Moreover, the machine is equipped with a power monitoring and regulating system to ensure maximum hydraulic power to the cutterhead. Another major benefit of the hydraulic cutting system is the eliminated risk of transmission failure. Electrically driven transverse cutterheads with sensitive bevel gears have a high risk of failure due to shock loads delivered to the transmission when the cutterhead stalls suddenly due to extremely hard rock or hitting steel supports or other obstacles. Buffered from such shock loads by relief valving and the fact that the transmission has heavy spur gears and no bevel gears, risk transmission failure is greatly reduced.


A further benefit of a hydraulic power system for the cutter is the ability to utilize an array of hydraulic attachments, which vastly increases the versatility of what was once a single-use machine. When used with an excavator-type knuckle boom (i.e. stick) the ABM330-K is transformed into a multi-tool miner that can use hydraulic hammers, drill-bolters, buckets, cutter-buckets, shotcrete manipulators, rock saws and more. This allows the machine to be utilized in multiple aspects of the tunneling operation and take advantage of the ever-expanding selection of hydraulic attachments.

The roadheader was immediately put to use for demolition of large reinforced concrete footers; demonstrating its versatility and usefulness for general construction tasks.

Operating just across the road from Sochi’s new international terminal, the ABM330-K will first take part in excavation of a 700-m tunnel for a high-speed train. Initial cutting was in argillite. Expectations are that sandstone will also be encountered. However, due to limited knowledge of the rock strength and quality, no firm number on compressive strength was available at the time of this article.

So, as Russia prepares to take the world stage, the tunneling industry and others will be watching as they ambitiously upgrade what was once a small Black Sea port city into the image that Russia will project to the world in 2014.

Wilhelm “Chip” Kogelmann is Vice President of Alpine Equipment LLC/Alpine Sales & Rental Corp., State College, Pa. Alpine Equipment is an international builder and supplier of roadheaders, shaft sinker and hydraulic cutterheads.