Steady as she blows

Overhead line supports for railway traffic

FUCHS Europoles has been manufacturing special masts made from prestressed spun concrete for railway traffic since the 1990s. These C-masts have been optimised in such a way that they can now be produced with 30 per cent less material than their predecessors; they are lighter and cheaper, easy to transport and simple to erect. They are also aerodynamically stable and corrosion-resistant, durable and maintenance-free. Deutsche Bahn (DB) is satisfied.

The ABCs of concrete masts

Already at the end of the 1980s, at the time of the German Reunification, Deutsche Bahn enquires about a possible cooperation with FUCHS Europoles: new masts are needed for regional and long-distance railway traffic to meet the higher demands for flexibility and simultaneously optimise costs. The previously used B-masts from 1974, developed by DB itself, and the improved new B-masts (NB-masts) were not designed for high speeds and also do not meet the latest standards: in particular they cannot stand up to the extreme air turbulence and vibrations created by ICEs as they pass by. FUCHS Europoles thereupon develops the C-mast system in a cooperation project with Siemens.

In-house planning and calculations

FUCHS Europoles has its own technical department with planners, technicians and structural engineers who can also design, calculate and draw something new – in accordance with current standards and norms – in no time. So it is in this case too: FUCHS Europoles prestressed spun-concrete masts that are so stable that they can withstand the strong airflows generated by a high-speed train racing by at 330 kilometres an hour. The special feature is that the masts are stiff and do not vibrate when trains pass by.

Prestressed spun concrete – unbreakable

Custom-made reinforcing cages and steel cables which are tensioned in the mast mould prior to spinning increase the mast stability; at the same time they reduce the material requirements and hence costs. In addition, the new overhead line supports do not require corrosion protection, maintenance or repair because the surface produced in the spinning process is pore-free and smooth. Frost and air pollution no longer present any problems. Elaborate foundation work is also done away with: the masts can be inserted directly into special driven pipe pile foundations to a maximum depth of 75 cm. The 7- to 16-metre-long concrete masts used to support overhead lines are manufactured as single parts and can easily be transported by lorry and erected with a crane. Concrete prices have been stable for years; this ensures planning reliability.

The time and cost savings afforded by the C-masts are thus unbeatable – they are up to 30% cheaper and lighter than their predecessors. An NB-mast weighed around 1.4 tonnes; a comparable C-mast weighs a tonne. This also convinced Deutsche Bahn; it has been ordering the masts from FUCHS Europoles for more than twenty years.


We succeeded in reducing the masts to three types through series effects in production.
We are also well positioned logistically. We take our time in the planning and then have less work in production; through this we have become more time- and cost-efficient.

Jurate Narakaite

Project Manager for Overhead Line Supports

FUCHS Europoles GmbH

Full steam ahead to the World Cup

In the World Cup year 2006 one of the most important stretches of railway in Germany – the high-speed track between Nuremberg and Ingolstadt – is equipped with overhead line supports from FUCHS Europoles: 1200 masts are placed along the 60-km-long stretch. The section is put into operation just in time for the opening game.

German Reunification Transport Project

The section is part of a large-scale transport project initiated just after reunification and intended to join the two parts of Germany in the public sector as well: the German Reunification Transport Project (VD). Since the 1990s the stretch from Munich to Berlin has been successively expanded with high-speed rail sections via the VDE. From the year 2011 another section of the North–South axis is equipped with masts by FUCHS Europoles: 3000 masts are erected between Erfurt and Ilmenau; the section is expected to be accepted at the end of the year 2017. ‘The masts were already partly erected a few years ago,’ says Jurate Narakaite, Project Manager for Overhead Line Supports at FUCHS Europoles. ‘This year they will be equipped with lines and then put into operation.’  

FUCHS Europoles offers lasting service

In the meantime, however, the standards have changed, so the rail company contacts FUCHS Europoles again and has calculations carried out to determine whether the existing masts are still sufficient for the by now higher quality demands and increased payloads. FUCHS Europoles as a seasoned and reliable service provider has its in-house structural engineers do the calculations and can provide reassurance: the installed masts can easily bear the higher payloads and do not have to be exchanged.

The standard mast types can be equipped with any attachment; directly input threaded bushes and through holes enable attachments such as booms or stays to be fastened later without any problems.

Optimising processes – 30 poles a day

For the Erfurt – Ilmenau stretch, then, development is even taking place from both ends. Organisation with site project management functions perfectly: a site train distributes the masts from previously set up stores along the tracks to their locations; they are positioned and anchored in the foundations on location via cable and crane – that’s it. ‘We could place up to 30 masts a day,’ recalls the project manager.

Migratory birds back on track

Similarly to transmission towers, the innovative overhead line supports take bird safety into consideration. The stronger air currents do not just pass by the large birds of prey who like to use the masts as lookouts unnoticed. The turbulence can force their wings onto the lines; with a large enough wingspan, a bird could bridge two phases and consequently suffer an electric shock. This is prevented by increasing the distance between the boom and the mast head. Buzzards, kites & co. can now sit far above the overhead lines: where the air current isn’t as strong. The next ICE can come.

Technical details


Deutsche Bahn


Project 1: Line expansion Nuremberg – Ingolstadt

Project 2: Erfurt – Ilmenau

Project duration

Project 1: 2001-2005

Project 2: 2011-2017

Items included in delivery

Project 1: 1200 C-masts

Project 2: 3000 C-masts

  • Material: prestressed spun concrete; concrete grade C80/95; round-conical
  • Height: 8 - 16,25 m
  • Diameter: foot: 310 - 580 mm; head: 167,5 - 370 mm
  • Weight: 0,8 – 4,5 t
  • Foundation: large pipe foundation (driven pipe pile foundation)

Further information

Catenary poles