The Ganz Company was founded by Mr. Abraham Ganz, a Swiss mechanics, who moved to Buda (the West Side of Budapest) in 1835. He made up a machine manufacture, they produced machinery for agricultural use. In the mid 1840's he invented a new steel casting method, and they used this to produce high quality mill wheels. His steam mills soon replaced the old water and wind driven mills in Hungary.
It turned out that this casting method can also be used to cast high quality railway wheels. Just this was the product that was badly needed by the European railways, and Ganz made a big business by selling wheelsets all over Europe. In the 1850's they had a majority market share in the European railway wheel business. In the 1860's they purchased a bankrupt railway car company, and started to build freight and passenger cars for the Hungarian railways.
They invested into the machine building too, and searched application fields for the new breed market of the electric machines. Three engineers of the company, Mr. Miksa Déry, Mr. Donát Bánki and Mr. Károly Zipernowsky invented the transformer and the energy distribution system using transformers. This was a huge business, and Ganz cleverly used this know-how. They sold the transformer licences to other companies, getting licences for other type of electric machinery. At the turn of the century they became a major European electric machine manufacturer.
It was obvious to connect the electric machine production with the car building shop, and they also started to make electric streetcars. Soon the majority of the Budapest streetcars were made by Ganz - until today.
After 1900 they also set up a large ship building yard in Fiume/Croatia (today Rijeka), but they lost this business after WW1.
They survived the hard times in the '20s and the WW2. They even expanded on the field of the diesel railcars, exporting not only inside Europe but also in Africa and South America.
Ganz was nationalized after starting the Communist Era in 1949, and they were forced to merge with MÁVAG, the locomotive manufacturer of the Hungarian State Railway in 1958. They were converted to build large number of diesel railcars for the Soviet "market", and electric machines for Eastern Europe. The quality became always worse. After 1990 the almost bankrupt Ganz Electric was purchased by the Italian Company, Ansaldo.
In 1897 the Italian Government decided to finance a pilot project in order to find out the benefits and characteristics of the electric traction. They designated three small railways around Milan to introduce three different electrification schemes. One introduced battery-driven railcars, using lead accumulators. The second one introduced a third-rail DC system. The third company, the "Societa Italiana delle Strade Ferrate Meridionali, Esercente la Rete Adriatica" decided to introduce AC system with overhead catenary on their Valtellina line. First they checked the German AEG that had interesting results in 3-phase traction systems, but they were directed to Ganz as that time AEG was deeply involved in the German electrification.
This time a young engineer of the Ganz Company , Mr. Kálmán Kandó made successful tests using 3-phase traction. He convinced the Ganz directors to enter into the Italian contest. Ganz won, and they have built a 3-phase electric traction system in the Valtellina, from Lecco at the Lake Como to Sondrio. This is a narrow valley, with steady 2% incline, and plenty of possibilities to use hydroelectric power.
Ganz proposed a 3-phase AC electric system, using a 3000V dual catenary. The catenary, the power distribution system with 9 transformer stations, 10 electric railcars and 2 locomotives were delivered by Ganz. The deadlines were rather short.
Two problems prevented the successful finishing of the project. The high voltage switches, that were applied on the primary, 22kV side of the supply transformers, failed. They were a new development of Ganz, and there was no time to test them thoroughly. To keep the deadlines, Ganz decided to buy new ones from the Swiss Brown-Boweri Company. They were needed urgently and costed much more than the original ones. The second problem was in the operation: the locomotives regularly destroyed the catenary inside the tunnels when entering at speed. No investigations gave results, thus a young Ganz engineer, Mr. László Tóth bound himself to the roof ladder of a railcar pushed by a fast steamer and he personally observed the process of catenary failure at high speed. This was a very dangerous adventure, but had its results: it turned out that the wire inside the tunnel was suspended too rigidly, and this generated unexpected mechanical oscillations when the loco entered at speed.
Both problems were repaired soon, but caused extra costs. Thus the Italian electrification made no profit for Ganz, rather caused some losses. Thus the Direction Council of Ganz decided for the future to withdraw from any mainline railway electrification. They just delivered other 7 locomotives for the Valtellina line of a new slotted rod drive construction. Later Ganz sold this drive design to the Swiss SLM Company that built several engines of this type, and also built several engines for different Swiss railways with the similar slotted rod drive.
The Italian Government however considered the Valtellina 3-phase electrification as success and in 1906 they decided to introduce this system everywhere in Italy, calling it "Systema Italiana". They also decided to set up a locomotive manufactoring site to build electric engines for this future net. After conducting a competition they requested the American company Westinghouse to build the locomotive workshop in Vado Ligure, close to Genoa. The newly founded "Societa Italiana Westinghouse SA" ("Italian Westinghouse Company") invited Mr. Kandó to work there as chief design engineer. He accepted this offer, as after the Ganz decision he did not find application field in Hungary.
The first electrification job in Italy was those of the Giovi incline, that connected Genoa harbor with the Italian mainland. Mr. Kandó designed the famous E550, "Cinquanta" 0-10-0 locomotives for these duties in 1906, still in Budapest - he rented an appartement, this was the "Budapest Section of the Italian Westinghouse company". Later, in 1912 he designed the E330 "Trenta" 2-6-2 engines for higher speed passenger trains. Both were produced in numbers before WW1.
In WW1 Italy and Hungary were enemies, and Mr. Kandó, as Hungarian citizen was about to be arrested in Italy. He escaped from Italy through Switzerland, leaving behind everything he had, his nice house and all his property. In the 1920's the Italian State payed him a decent compensation for all that. His good Italian contacts, however, remained alive during and after WW1.
Other Hungarian employees of the Italian Westinghouse were immediately arrested when the WW1 broke out. They spent the wartime in a prison camp in Sicily.
In Hungary Mr. Kandó was commanded to the Ministry of Defense as Transport Expert. He soon discovered that the Austrian-Hungarian Rail Transport is very vulnerable. The coal production of the mines could not be increased in the same rate as the war transportation needed. In addition most coalmines were close to the Hungarian borders, thus an attack could have paralyzed the rail transport. He offered the electrification as solution: according his calculations a steam locomotive uses only 8-9% of the coal energy, while the electric traction has an efficiency of at least 22%, thus needing only 40% of the coal. His ideas were welcome, plans were made, but in the wartime the investment of this size was impossible.
After WW1 Hungary has lost 2/3 of her territory, and almost all coalfields. New coalmines were opened but they delivered poor quality non-bituminous coal only. Thus the Government, despite the desolate economic situation, decided to make efforts towards railway electrification. In 1921 they contracted Ganz to develop an experimental locomotive and perform trials on a temporarily electrified track.
At this time Mr. Kandó recognized the problems of the dual catenary in the 3-phase systems. On the other side he was convinced that the Swiss-German low-frequency system is far from being ideal, as this results a rail electric network that is fully independent from the general network of the country. He promoted the single phase industry frequency (50Hz in Europe) system. On the other hand he wanted to keep the multiphase traction motors, that have considerably lower maintenance requirements than the commutator motors used at both the DC systems and the low-frequency AC systems. He developed a phase converter (phase splitter) to use it in his locomotive.
The phase converter is a rather complicated rotating machine that contains a transformer, a single-phase synchronous motor and a multi-phase synchronous generator in one body. Later examples contained starter windings too, thus one can consider they also contained an asynchronous motor as well.
The high voltage (16kV) current was fed directly into the primary windings on the stator. To avoid isolation problems the stator was sitting inside a sheet metal tank filled by transformer oil. The rotor was a single strong electric magnet, powered by a small DC generator mounted on the Phase Converter's shaft end. In the first experimental loco the rotor was cooled by air, in the later versions by water. There was a plastic - that time "Bakelite" - tube in the slot between the stator and the rotor. This separated the oil tank of the stator from the rotor that was rotating inside the tube.
The secondary windings of the stator were divided into many poles. They delivered the multi-phase current for the traction motors. Not only the number of the phases, but also their voltage could be regulated. This resulted a very good power factor for these engines. The phase converted could deliver 3, 4 and 6 phase current at 600-900V.
In 1921 the Ministry of Transport decided to promote the Railway Mainline Electrification in Hungary. Ganz also gave up their resistance against such projects. Thus MÁV was directed to order an experimental phase converter loco from Ganz, and build a short trial track north of Budapest (Budapest - Veresegyház line).
Mr. Kandó designed the loco. It contained the previous described phase converter with air cooled rotor, two traction motors that drove the 5 wheelsets through a dual rod drive, and Kandó newest invention, the "Kandó-triangle". This was a tilting element of the rod drive that allowed the drivers' vertical movement without forwarding vertical forces on the connecting rods. The two traction motors were cascade-connected to allow smooth starting.
Many trials were made with the loco, starting in Oct. 31 1923, usually hauling freight trains and dynamometer cars. Several problems were discovered. One of them was the high speed, 3000 RPM of the phase converter, and its poor rotor cooling. The traction motors' cascade connection made the loco very complicate to drive. The biggest problem, however, was the sensitivity on overloading. At one overload experiment the phase splitter's rotor became so hot, that the isolating plastic tube warped and leaked oil. After long negotiations Ganz and MÁV decided to redesign the loco.
After WW1 Ganz was financially instable, and every order was welcome. Thus Mr. Kandó participated in the development of new Italian 3-phase locomotives. This time however not for the Italian Westinghouse company, that was purchased after WW1 by the Swiss Brown Boveri, but another Italian locomotive builder, Emilio Romeo. (their car manufacturing subsidiary is well known: Alfa Romeo).
Mr. Kandó and his team at Ganz developed two types of three phase locomotives, one for passenger train, Class 333 and one for freight duties, Class 552. This was the first engine that was designed with the "Kandó-triangle" rod drive. These engines, called in Hungary "the Romeo locos", were in service until abandoning the Italian 3-phase system, in the mid '70s.
Another important development was those for the Austrian State Railway Company, BBÖ. They electrified the famous Arlberg line that time, and were still searching for the best suitable motive power. Although the line was electrified with 16.66 Hz, thus ideal for simple series wound traction motors, they wanted to perform trials with other systems. They requested Ganz to develop phase converter locos for this line, a passenger one and a freight one.
Mr. Kandó was strongly against this idea. He saw the benefits of the phase converter technology in the usage of industry frequency supply. According his opinion, if the catenary already uses low frequency current, there are little profits from the phase converter, that makes the loco expensive and heavy. The Austrians, however, considered the excellent power factor of the phase converter technology as a tempting alternative, and convinced Mr. Kandó to build the loco. The poor finances of Ganz decided the game.
The real construction challenge was the phase converter. The 16Hz version had much larger dimensions than the 50Hz one. To keep the weight acceptable, they decided to build it air-cooled, instead of in oil bath, as those Hungarian 50Hz versions. Later this became the source of the failure.
The passenger loco was delivered as BBÖ Class 1470 in 1925, and made long term trials on the Arlberg line. Although it showed the required 1450HP, it could not perform as much as the steam locos of same power. The other source of problems was the switching equipment between the phase converter and traction motors, they weren't reliable enough.
The real disaster happened however, when after a long rainy period the tunnel's air became extremely humid, and this shorted the air cooled phase converter. One winding burned out, and the loco stopped inside the tunnel. There were long negotiations in progress about its rebuilding in stronger and better form, but due to unsolved financial questions this never realized. The loco was scrapped later.
About the freight version, Class 1180 there are drawings, but no pictures available. Probably she has never been built, at least not in its originally designed form.
As a result of the trials with the First Experimental Loco and the Austrian engines Ganz decided to build a Second Experimental engine. They used the first one as basis. Its frame and drivetrain remained as they were, but the designers returned the loco: the cab was mounted on the other side. Thus the phase converter's end was inside the cab, and the driver could observe it s running through a round window.
The phase converter was a new construction. It got roller bearings and an increased size slot between the rotor and the stator with a thicker Bakelite tube. The rotor was water cooled now. They also redesigned the rotor to have four poles instead of two in the first prototype, thus the rotor speed decreased to 1500 RPM from the 3000 RPM earlier. They also changed the current collector: the second experimental loco was equipped with usual pantographs.
This engine performed many trial runs, and turned out to be very reliable. The phase converter construction was taken over for the final loco with almost no changes. Although the experimental catenary was removed soon after starting the service on the electrified mainline, this loco remained in service on the mainline until 1935. That time there were enough new engines available there, and the experimental loco was scrapped. Its phase converter was used at Ganz for testing multiphase motors, and after the WW2 it was given to the Budapest Transport Museum, where it is on show now. The loco chassis remained at Ganz, when after WW2 one of the motors was removed, reconstructed and sold to the Csepel Steel Mill, where it was used to drive a large steel sheet roller machine until the early 1990s.
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This page was updated last time on 30th August 2000
© János Erö