Bob John Knox, Senior Engineer

Explain your background in air conditioning?

I’m a refrigeration engineer and I’ve been doing it for over 40 years now. I was formerly working for Albatross when the company was taken over and I was team leader for shop floor air conditioning. Albatross was a Spanish company which did rolling stock doors, but didn’t do air conditioning in the UK, so they approached Rail Door Solutions (RDS) to see about starting up to do air conditioning, which is where I came in.

One of the guys I knew from RDS knew I was in refrigeration and air conditioning and asked if I would be interested to help start it up as an engineer.

I started with them and started slowly doing one module a month. There were about three of us learning how they wanted it done and how to do it and test it and to have control panels built to actually run these things which we did and we did it in the offices of RDS – we had a corner in there.

As we proved ourselves the customer said ‘yes, we’d like you to do a contract’. We got our first contract which we couldn’t do as our current RDS premises was too small so we moved to a bigger premises and that’s history. Ten years later and we have a good working relationship with Bombardier, Eurostar, we’ve done a bit of work for Siemens, some for SNCF, which is a France rail company, various depots for Bombardier – we’ve done research and development for them, some safety papers for them.

When the companies merged, I took a step back from running the shop floor. There were different ways of thinking. I took a step back and let someone else take over.

Explain the work Schaltbau Transportation does on air conditioning?

We do the overhauling, primarily the modules will be removed from the roof of the train and taken back to our depot. We will then strip down these on a seven-year cycle, take off the compressors and various components, we would then replace them, rolling test them, send them back – each week.

That’s a weekly cycle. Depends on how many depots we have as to how many people we have on the shop floor to do them so 2 depots a week we are servicing, 16 modules a week saloons, 6 cabs and we can do control panels as well – strip them down, refit the parts and test them.

What’s been the biggest changes you’ve seen?

I’ve seen a lot of changes. Now we have a much bigger premises, much more staff here that are not working on the shop floor – that’s a good thing looking for more work and taking on more work obviously the overheads go up.

We work very closely with any customer and we will do our best to do what they want doing. If we didn’t know how to do it we’d try our hardest to find a way to do it. We have a very professional MD that wants to do everything as it should be and he’s putting people in place to police that.

It’s a friendly place and we’ve got some good workers here and we’ve got the facilities to take on more work so I don’t think that’s a problem.

We’ve got the backing of a much bigger company in Schaltbau. We do make our own products down in Wales so we can do that. We’ve proved ourselves on air conditioning in the last 13 years from scratch. I can see it growing providing it’s still modules – I don’t see why they would change that. If they fix the system, you’ve got to go with that system. Fit at right time and it’s not feasible as you can’t take it away. We could supply and tailor to their needs.

Plans for the future of air conditioning?

Unfortunately in this country a lot of the refrigeration and air conditioning has been sized for certain ambient temperatures 28/32 degrees. If it goes past that temperature it may not work at all until the temperature comes down. There’s nothing you can do about it.

That’s what I’m trying to do. We’re doing this research and development to try and combat global warming basically. We’re only talking 2 or 3 degrees. I can’t put a much bigger unit in which will do it because firstly there’s no space, not enough electricity on the train and the cabling has got to be bigger.

Bob John Knox, senior engineer

“I’ve seen a lot of changes. We have much bigger premises, much more staff that are not working on the shop floor – that’s a good thing looking for more work. There are some good people here, people who want to learn. We work very closely with any new customer and we will do our best to do what they want doing. If we don’t know how to do it, we’ll try our hardest to find a way to do it.”

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