Mini Agri telehandler restores a gem of historic Swiss engineering

The Dieci Mini Agri 26 is the agricultural telehandler that played a central role in a project to restore Switzerland’s Brienz-Rothorn Bahn mountain railway, which connects Brienz, on the shores of the eponymous lake, to the summit of the Brienzer Rothorn, at an altitude of 2244 metres in the Bernese Highlands.
With an overall infrastructure valued at around CHF 4.5 million, the engineering works were accomplished thanks partly to the use of a Mini Agri 26 vehicle, which is designed to fit perfectly into tight and difficult spaces. Benefiting from extreme versatility and excellent handling, this telehandler turned out to be particularly useful in repairing tunnels and retaining walls, transporting materials and handling track ballast, while the excellent thermal and acoustic insulation and upgraded air conditioning system proved ideal for operators clearing fallen snow from the track during winter.

The telehandler was chosen primarily due to three main characteristics:

  • Compact size
  • Performance
  • Engine power

Legendary attributes 

Let’s look in detail at the model’s technical characteristics, starting with its small size, which allowed the Mini Agri 26 to scramble inside the narrow tunnels, helped also by its outstanding off-road performance. 

Other notable features include its maximum load capacity of 2600 kg and its flexibility, thanks to the extensive range of available accessories such as the shovel and basket, in addition to lifting hooks, grapples of various types, excavation and aggregate buckets, and winches. 

Last but not least, the innovative DSCS (Double Skin Composite System) material, an ultralight composite made by the Dieci Research and Development Centre, is used in the cabin door and helps to significantly lighten the Dieci telehandler, improving its performance and considerably increasing its thermal and acoustic insulation, for maximum comfort and habitability inside the ROPS – FOPS approved cab.

The renovation works 

These attributes enabled the telescopic handler to make a successful contribution in the delicate and ambitious project to upgrade a 7.6 km section of the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn mountain railway in Switzerland, which climbs a maximum gradient of 25% to 2244 metres above sea level, amidst one of the most incredible and unique landscapes in the world. The project was accomplished in extreme conditions by a team of 30 motivated and highly qualified staff who worked a total of over 100 shifts day and night, alternating between the transport and installation of 1750 sleepers, 440 track sections, 2200 cubic metres of ballast and 3600 tonnes of various materials.

A towering success for Switzerland’s economic and tourism development

The relatively low weight, high flexibility and precise movement proved key to the success of the Dieci telehandler. Its contribution was greatly appreciated by the general manager of Brienz-Rothorn Bahn, Simon Koller, who said in an interview that “another 80 years will pass before the next major overhaul“.
Once the works were completed, the Swiss railway line resumed full operations to the great satisfaction of users and management alike. Located within a natural treasure trove, this little gem of historic engineering was inaugurated in 1892 and is also a precious economic resource, considering that in the summer of 2018 alone, the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn transported over 160,000 visitors up the mountain. For 130 years, in the period from May to October, puffing steam locomotives have pushed carriages full of tourists up the sides of the Brienzer Rothorn to the summit station, which also doubles as a hotel-restaurant and forms the starting point of a dense network of paths with breathtaking views of the lake and 693 other mountain peaks. 

In addition to its traditional use in the agricultural sector, on this occasion the Mini Agri 26 telehandler also contributed to the causes of environmental protection and promoting tourism and economic development in the Swiss Confederation: it should be noted that the Brienz-Rothorn Bahn railway line is one of 30 cog railways operating around the world, of which no fewer than 17 are located in Switzerland alone.