Engineering, Freight Rail, Major Projects & Infrastructure, Passenger Rail, Products & Technology, Rail Supply, Research & Development, Rolling stock & Rail Vehicle Design

50 years of Manco achievements


The Manco Engineering Group celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Established in 1973, the company has become a leader in the design and manufacturing of equipment utilised in the rail electrification, waste, recycling, and construction industries.

Originally named Hydraulic Machinery Company (HMC) in both New Zealand and Australia, the company changed its name to Manco in 1986.
And Manco general manager in Australia, Jaclyn Vanderent, tells Rail Express that since inception, it has been a half century of great achievements.
“Manco has become recognised globally with its continued innovation throughout the past five decades,” she said.

Vanderent looked back at some of Manco’s rail industry achievements over the past decades, both locally and overseas.


The first major rail projects occurred almost simultaneously when a McConnell Dowell and MCE joint venture won the electrification contract for the New Zealand main trunk from Hamilton to Palmerston North in 1983.

HMC supplied a package which included a newly-developed transporter, crane trucks and rail modules to carry both rough terrain mobile cranes and crane augers.

The units were inspected and ordered by both Citra (an Italian origin company) and EPT (Electric Power and Transmission, a division of Transfield) in 1984.

“The company manufactured four lowbed transporters with special Palfinger cranes (which the company was manufacturing under a licence agreement with Palfinger of Salzburg Austria),” Vanderent said.

“We considered the Citra and EPT lowbed transporters as revolutionary as they enabled a full range of road vehicles from flatbeds, tippers, cranes trucks to aggies to work off the track.”

The transporters were also used continuously as part of the Central Queensland coal fields (Bowen Basin) electrification plan. The main lines where they were dominant were the North Coast line from Rockhampton to Gladstone, and the Goonyella scheme to Mackay.


In 2013, Manco Rail was part of British construction and engineering group Balfour Beatty Rail’s contract to implement the rail electrification and power supply systems package for the Ipoh to Padang Besar double tracking rail extension in Malaysia.

The project, worth £160 million to Balfour, was executed in a joint venture with Ansaldo STS, and involved the design, supply and installation of electrification, power supply, signalling and communications on 330km of new double track.

It was part of a large railway investment by Malaysia to create a modern and efficient railway connection between Kuala Lumpur and the Thai border, with the long-term objective of establishing a Pan-Asian Link connecting Singapore to China.

The Balfour team incorporated four Manco lowbed transporters, two Manco friction drive tippers, and a full assortment of 15 work platforms from scissor lifts, telescopic and pedestal units.

“Manco’s presence on this important project could not be overstated,” Vanderent said.

“All plant items undertook full Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) prior to shipment, and then in conjunction with the various Malaysian authorities
completed Site Acceptance Testing (SAT) before starting a vigorous construction regime.”


A large excavator with drill rig on a Manco powered plant deck trailer.


Manco Rail played an essential role in the DART (Developing Auckland’s Rail Transport) rail electrification project, a joint venture between Hawkins Infrastructure and global construction company Laing O’Rourke.

The 137-kilometre twin track project from Swanson to Papakura used Manco’s specialised equipment for the wire tensioning and alignment phase to serve the 57 EMU (Electric multiple Unit) trains that travelled on the line.

The three-carriage stainless steel units, with a power unit at each end, are capable of moving from 0 to 60km in 24 seconds.
The electrification wires carried 25,000-volt power at a height over road crossings of five metres.

Manco Rail’s fleet involved in the construction consisted of one 1250 rail transporter with 40 tonne metre crane, three pole erection-wiring road rail
vehicles with radio remote cranes, two 500kg SWL scissor platforms, two 400kg SWL scissor platforms, one 300kg SWL telescopic platform, one 30t payload Scania truck with rail lowbed trailer, and six excavators from 5-20t, all with rail-mounted equipment.


Manco engineers, working in conjunction with the rail civil work construction company Contract Landscapes (CLL), manufactured a special purpose road–rail–rail trailer combination for the early phase of Auckland’s rail network.

“The result was that about two thirds of the 28,000 tonnes of ready mixed concrete was transported on rail using this unique system,” Vanderent said.

“Once positioned on track, the prime mover lowers the lowbed rail trailer using a Manco RL200 rear hook loader. Once the combination is located at a road crossing the awaiting ready-mix vehicle self-loads and moves down track to the designated pour.

“The prime mover, a 420HP Scania, easily coped with an all-up train weight of 46t with hydrostatic track speeds up to 25kph.”

In total, CLL’s specialist team completed 2163 piling operations, 552 pads and 22 rock anchors.


Manco Rail collaborated with CPB Contractors and UGL on the line-wide works for Sydney Metro as part of the Systems Connect joint venture, and the rail integration and systems contract as part of the UNITY Alliance joint venture on Cross River Rail.

Installing track, wiring, and associated systems many metres below ground level required new thinking when it came to the equipment and plant needed to build the new rail lines.

A combined scissor lift platform and wire manipulator from Manco Rail was employed, with the bespoke piece of equipment designed in partnership between the two companies specifically for the requirements of modern rail projects: the first being the need to limit exhaust fumes when working in confined tunnels.

They also worked to develop a unique platform that was put to use on both projects.

“The combined scissor platform and wire manipulator was ideal for wire runs or traction wiring runs. We were able to do wire retrievals and install new catenary and contact wire,” Vanderent said.

Unlike standard catenary wires, electric trains running through tunnels draw their power from beams mounted into the ceiling of the tunnel and it’s here that the large platform came in handy.

“In the tunnel it’s a rigid bar conductor so the length of that platform allows us to have two people on each end of the bar, installing it into the roof.
That would be very impractical with a normal elevated work platform (EWP),” Vanderent said.

Being a “multipurpose unit” has other efficiencies, particularly when getting equipment in and out of tunnels is easier said than done.

“It takes time to bring machines in and out, because these things on rail only move at 15km/h. Doing one thing with one machine then bringing another machine in takes a significant amount of time,” Vanderent said.

Another advantage of the unit that Manco have designed is its flexibility. The equipment can be reconfigured by an operator for the job at hand.

“Our engineers know what the requirements were, and they ensured that the machines were tested correctly and provided the test results to meet those requirements,” Vanderent said.

In fact, the massive Sydney Metro project, Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project, built largely below the city, represented a great opportunity for Manco to participate with innovative, efficiency-enhancing plant that enabled contractors to improve productivity and performance by changing from traditional rail construction methodologies.

“For Manco Rail, a project such as this fit into the company’s DNA as an OEM with the ability to innovate,” Vanderent said.

In the case of Sydney Metro City and Southwest, it was these qualities that led Systems Connect to select Manco. Systems Connect delivered the laying of track, power, communications, and signalling equipment to the project between Chatswood and Bankstown.

“The project involved delivering rail and track on twin 15.5km tunnels between Chatswood, under Sydney Harbour, below the Sydney CBD, and on to Sydenham. It is here that Manco’s equipment came into its own.”

The particular equipment that Manco provided for the Sydney Metro CBD and South West project were rail transfer equipment and sleeper-laying trailers.

The rail equipment consisted of two specially converted wheeled excavators equipped with material handling booms, automatic rail threading units, and rail carrying dollies.

The trailers were equipped with a sleeper grab straddle, rail threader trailer, tug units, sonar detection systems, and a track guidance system fitted to the equipment.

Developed over 14 months, the custom- designed equipment laid the rail, spread it out, placed the sleepers, and then pulled the rail back over the top. The entire process was radio remote controlled, crucially limiting the number of people in high-risk areas.

The Manco equipment was used in two stages: laying the track components first, then concreting the track form be concreted, after which mechanical and electrical systems and signalling equipment was installed.