McCulloch Rail made tracks straight back to the Mercedes-Benz Unimog when it needed a new truck with a unique combination of attributes.
The Ayrshire-based railway maintenance contractor required a vehicle that could work with equal ease on-road, across rough unmade ground, or even on train lines – and nothing else offered the Unimog’s versatility.
McCulloch’s latest Unimog is a Euro VI U427 model, supplied by specialist Dealer South Cave Tractors, of Brough, East Yorkshire. Its 200 kW (272 hp) six-cylinder engine drives through a fully synchronised manual transmission that has eight forward and eight reverse gears.
In addition to its road wheels, the 13-tonne gvw chassis is fitted with special rail wheels by German specialist Zagro. These can be lowered to enable the truck to drive along railway tracks, then raised again when not required.
A road-rail vehicle typically requires a level crossing or RRAP (Road Rail Access Point) to join the track but the Unimog’s unrivalled off-road capability means that if none is available nearby it can comfortably cross any ground necessary to get to work.
With its factory-fitted dropside body and ability to tow a large trailer the Unimog can transport a full complement of tools and machinery to the most remote rail locations.
Brothers Billy and Danny McCulloch founded their business in 1992. The following year they took on a contract to cut back trees overhanging the railway lines with their first Unimog. This started a process that led, ultimately, to a decision to specialise in rail maintenance.
From its base in Ballantrae, McCulloch Rail now works across the UK. The company provides a range of services which includes repairing and replacing damaged rails and sleepers, often using innovative machinery that it has designed, developed and refined itself. In 2016, McCulloch also handled well over a million tonnes of scrap rail.
“No other machine does what the Unimog can do,” said Danny McCulloch. “It can be driven on road at 56 mph yet is also capable of handling the roughest cross-country terrain. It can haul a heavy trailer with specialist plant or machinery, and ours can even run on the railway line. It does everything.”
He continued: “We bought our first one in 1993, called it ‘Mary Mog’, and have stuck with them ever since. That first vehicle is still in our shed – we just can’t let it go. One of these days we’re going to restore it to its former glory and it will be a fantastic mascot for our business.”
The off-road heritage of the iconic Unimog stretches back more than 70 years. Since the first model was launched in 1946, constant development by Mercedes-Benz engineers has kept it at the forefront of the off-road pack and today it is widely acknowledged as the world’s leading all-terrain vehicle, with a reputation forged in the harshest operating conditions.
There are two core variants: an implement carrier with front, side and rear attachment points, and a base truck for a range of other bodies. All Unimogs have 4×4 chassis with single rear wheels, which follow the track created by the front wheels. Gross weights vary from 7.5 to 16 tonnes and engines from 156 hp to 300 hp.