BHP Billiton Iron Ore operate two railway lines and the most diverse fleet of locomotives in the Pilbara consisting of 141 locomotives spread over four distinct classes, or models.
Motive power ranges from EMD SD40 units built in the mid 60's, and imported 2nd hand, GE Dash 8 units both new, and rebuilds from Alco C636's, GE AC6000's and EMD's new SD70ACe model.
And the rail lines, one is 426 km long running from Nelson Point (Port Hedland) to Newman (or Mt Whaleback Mine). With junctions at Yandi Junction, where the mainline continues on towards the MAC™ Mine (Mining Area C) iron ore mine, past the spurs to Yandi One and Yandi Two mines, with the other at Jimblebar Junction Marshalling Yard, with branches heading east out past Orebody 18 to Wheelarra Hill, (formerly McCamey's Monster, then Jimblebar) iron ore mines and to the south west to Mt Whaleback (Newman) past Ore Body 23/25 iron ore mines.
While the other line of 208 km runs from Finucane Island (formally a Goldsworthy Mining Limited site), and known as the 'East and West Yards' to the Yarrie and Nimingarra mines via Boodarie Yard and Goldsworthy Junction, which is now a double track interchange rather than the original diamond crossing of years gone. Trains to and from the Yarrie line now operate out of Nelson Point since the Finucane Island unloader and old Goldsworthy plant were decommissioned, and then demolished to make way for the new 'East Yard'.
BHP Billiton are currently running 14 trains a day on the Newman line.
Train lengths are either 224 or 336 cars, based on a 112 car 'rake' size with the mid-train units controlled via radio link from the lead unit in a system known as 'Locotrol' or 'Distributed Power'.
With one train a day running on the Yarrie line, trains lengths are still around the old 90 car length, with 82 cars being common, and a single Dash 8 locomotive for power.
With the old bottom discharge waggons, most of which have been sold and shipped east to Gemco in South Australia. Rotary dump cars are now used on all services.
The Golynx bottom discharge cars (8400 series) have been converted to rotary dump cars and now see service system wide, including 8400, which still carries the stencils 'GML ONLY'.
Expansion of the operation to 205 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) is well under way with BHP Billiton and the Macmahon Leighton Joint Venture in the process of duplicating the Newman mainline between Bing South (21 km) and Yandi Junction in a project called RPG 5.
This project also includes a new 26 km long 'Chichester Deviation' to ease the grades around the Hesta Siding area, from the 221 km to the 231 km.
There are currently two sections already duplicated between Coonarie and Spring sidings and Turner South to Turner North.
With the addition of a rotary car dumper (CD4) at Finucane Island this has allowed increased tonnages to the Western and Eastern Yards of Yandi and MAC™ DSO or Direct Shipped Ore with the continued use of the under harbour tunnel.
Extensive duplication works have been carried out in the Hedland area as in Nelson Point Yard is now dual track all the way to Bing South, with the south leg of the Goldsworthy Triangle duplicated and called the 'avoidance road' which avoids the GML leg of the triangle being added to the once former diamond.
Trains are now regularly made and broken up at Bing Siding, which has an Up and Down mainline along with the siding, which is also the access point to the Flashbutt Yard. This occurs due to the length limitations on the line to Finucane Island being only capable of single (112 car) rakes. Normal operation is for empty rakes to leave both Nelson Point and Boodarie yards and be marshalled into a single train in the siding at Bing. With loaded trains splitting apart on the Down mainline before continuing onto either Boodarie or Nelson Point.
Area flood lighting allows for round the clock operation at Bing siding.
Train movements are controlled from the Train Control centre located in Perth at the Intergrated Remote Operations Centre with five control desks, being:
'Hedland Control' looking after the Newman mainline from the 67km (located south of Walla) to the 260km on Ch 1.
'Newman Control' looking after the Newman mainline from the 260km to 384km and the MAC™ and Yandi lines on Ch 2.
'6PG' or Goldsworthy looking after the Yarrie line and the Hedland area from Finucane Island to the 67km, inc. Goldsworthy Junction and Boodarie and Bing yards on Ch 6.
'Hub Control' looking after the 384km to Newman and Jimblebar and all movements south around the Jimblebar, Orebody 18 and Orebody 24 mines on Ch 4.
And 'Yard Control' which controls the Hedland (Nelson Point) Yard on Ch 3.
Communications and all track devices are controlled across an extensive VHF radio system with solar powered microwave linked repeaters.
All track side infrastructure as in signals, switch motors and monitoring devices are solar powered and are monitored and controlled out of Nelson Point via a computer controlled Siemens'
Vicos Train Control System. A data sheet is available
A trunking style scanner is required for the BHP system as they use a P25 based unencyted system.
A printable PDF covering BHP's P25 system and Rio's conventional UHF network can be downloaded here.