A few years ago BHP Billiton faced a motive power shortage due to an increase in global demand for iron ore, and with new locomotives at least 2 years away a decision was made to purchase some second hand SD40 type locomotives off GETS (GE Transportation Systems). Most of the units were re-conditioned prior to shipping.
So on the 9th of November 2003, ex GECX SD40R loco 6415 arrived at Nelson Point, off the heavy lift ship BBC FRISIA from Mexico. After some initial quarantine issues, the unit was lowered onto BHPBilliton rails out the front of the Locomotive Overhaul Workshop late that same afternoon. The other locos in that shipment where SD40R GECX 6401 and ex-Southern Pacific 8335, a tunnel motor SD40T-2. This SP unit is only for spares and has since been all but been gutted.
The second batch arrived over the New Year on the sister ship BBC CHINA. On it among others where SD40R 6407 in GECX blue and yellow, and SD40-2 3500 in khaki undercoat colour, one of the re-con units.
All the above locos had to be re-numbered before issue to traffic, and were so numbered from 3078 upwards to 3085.
On the 8th of June, 2004 loco 3086 was unloaded, and was the first of the rebuild units to sport the bubble paint colour scheme. Over the 8th and 9th locos 3087, 3088, 3089,3090 and 3091 were delivered to site.
On the 6th of August, 2004 the final shipment of 6 SD40R locos arrived via the ship BBC SEALAND numbered 3092 to
3097 and all are in the bubble paint livery. After some testing 3095 and 3096 worked a return working to Yandi and back as the midtrain units behind 5636 on the 9th and 10th
of August, 2004. 3094 and 3097 were also inservice a day later.
With the arrival of the second hand SD40
locomotives from GETS it allowed BHPBilliton to increase the operation to 12 departures a day from the Port. It has also seen BHPBillitons locomotive fleet swell in size to 56 units, plus 1 spare parts unit, the SD40T-2. The units see mainline action as 'trailing units' only and cannot be a leading remote as they have no Locotrol, air conditioning or other crew comforts, and no ATP fitted. They can't even lead a work train. They are commonly seen marshalled behind an AC6000 or SD70ACe, or a pair of them behind a Dash 8.
Four of the SD40R locos; 3078, 3079, 3080 and 3091 have all had Daiken split air-conditioners and microwave ovens fitted, along with radios to enable them to be used in Nelson Point Yard as pilot engines, shunting the rakes into the dumpers and runing the compressor cars around the yard. 3096 has had similer treatment but copped an air-conditioner in the RHS of it's nose. Ten SD40R's are also being fitted with ATP to allow them to lead trains between Nelson Point to Bing and around to Finucane Island. At present 3 have been fitted out.
Here is some information relating to the history of these units.
The Southern Pacific rebuilds were designated SD40R.