ON JUNE 21 BHP Iron Ore set a new world record by running the longest and heaviest freight train, between Yandi mine and Port Hedland in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (below). The run was the latest manifestation of BHPIO’s ongoing programme of leading-edge research. Vice-President Mike Darby said it was ’an opportunity to push the technology to the maximum’, explaining to Railway Gazette Editor Murray Hughes at the 7th IHHA conference in Brisbane that ’you have to keep trying different things - if you don’t, you don’t know what you can do’ (RG 7.01 p431).

Conveying 82000 wet tonnes of iron ore, the 7·3 km train was formed of 682 wagons hauled by all eight of BHPIO’s General Electric AC6000CW diesel locomotives. Gross weight was 99734 tonnes. The train was run for 275 km on the 426 km Mount Newman line under the control of a single driver. To optimise the traction and braking forces, the locos were dispersed through the train as three pairs and two single units, linked by Locotrol radio communications.

The journey was interrupted for 4h 40min when a defective coupler parted on the climb over the Chichester Ranges. After repairs, the train was banked for the last 1 km to the summit by two additional locos, but then completed the rest of the journey without further problems. Total running time was 10h 4min.

President of BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore Graeme Hunt said that the business expects to achieve record sales this year ahead of the 66·1 million wet tonnes recorded in 1998. The company is looking at boosting output to over 80 million tonnes within the next decade, which will require the operation of longer and heavier trains. BHP currently operates up to nine loaded trains per day, with three AC6000CW or four Dash 8 locos of 4000hp hauling 26000 tonnes of ore in 224 wagons, although the passing loops can accommodate up to 336 cars when required.

BHP already held the record for the heaviest train, set with a 10-loco 540-wagon special on May 28 1996, which grossed 72191 tonnes. However, at 5892m, it was shorter than a 71600 tonne train operated on South Africa’s Sishen - Saldanha iron ore line in 1991. This was formed of 660 wagons, hauled by nine electric and seven diesel locos for a total length of 7200m.