Rio Tinto Iron Ore is the trading name for Hamersley Iron and the former Cliffs Robe River Iron Associates combined operations of Pilbara Rail and Pilbara Iron and currently operates some 195 locomotives across four different models with 11500 ore waggons in married pairs along approximately 1700km of heavy haul standard gauge railway.
Rio Tinto wholly owns Hamersley Iron and 53 percent of Robe River Iron Associates following a buyout of North Ltd and also operates and manages the Hope Downs 1 and 4 mine projects on a 50/50 joint venture with Hancock Prospecting P/L. For more information, the Rio Tinto Iron Ore site is here.
The locomotive fleet is made up of the following four types:
A colour and serial number chart of the Rio Tinto roster, including historical ALCo and Dash 7-8 details can be viewed here.
- 29 General Electric ES44ACi or EVO's, a modern and technologically advanced fleet with the GEVO-12 4400hp engine and AC traction. These units are numbered from 9100 onwards and more are on order. They are in the Rio Tinto silver with red stripes and numerals.
- 100 General Electric ES44DCi or EVO, a 4400hp model with the GEVO-12 engine, road numbers 8100 to 8199. These units carry two liveries, the units 8100 to 8118 are all silver with black 'Rio Tinto' and the units 8119 to 8199 carry red stripes with red 'Rio Tinto' and numerals.
- 72 General Electric C44-9W or Dash 9, an aging but very reliable locomotive with the 7FDL-16 engine of 4400hp with DC traction and road numbers of 9401 to 9409, 9428 to 9436 and 7043 to 7098 (excluding 7051 and 7052).
These units wear a variety of liveries, from the original Pepsi livery of sliver with blue and red stripes, the combined colours of Pilbara Rail and Pilbara Iron and one unit 9406 carries the Rio Tinto all over grey following collision rebuilding.
- 4 CM40-8M rebuilds 9411, 9418, 9419 and 9422, these much older former Robe River rebuilt with GE 7FDL-16 4000hp engine from ALCo frames, still on the roster as yard shunters. These units are in the former Robe yellow, red and black livery.
Three General Electric C44-9W units were originally purchased by Robe River and lettered for Pilbara Rail with ROBE identifying marks. They originally carried road numbers
9470, 9471 and 9472 with serial no. 53455, 53456 and 53457 built October 2001 and delivered on 21st February 2002 and subsequently re-numbered to fit into the combined locomotive roster as 9401-9402-9403 respectively.
The massive Rio Tinto railway system extends from three port complexes, East Intercourse Island and Parker Point located at Dampier and serviced by the Seven Mile yard complex and the greatly enlarged Cape Lambert facility at Port Walcott serviced by Cape Lambert yard. East Intercourse Island has one dumper, Parker Point two dumpers and Cape Lambert with five dumpers. All of these dumpers except the original Robe single waggon dumper are dual cell dumpers capable of dumping a pair or waggons each tip.
From these facilities a single track mainline with three passing sidings (Dingo 38km, Dove km and Dugite 63km) runs south out of Seven Mile yard to Emu 77km, and a double track mainline running south west out of Cape Lambert to Western Creek 72km where the lines converge at Emu and the double track mainline starts the steep graded climb to the top of the Chichester range at Gull 105km. Double track continues all the way to Rosella Siding 250km where 'branch' lines head roughly south east to mine loadouts at Yandicoogina (2 of) 447km, West Angelas 420km, Hope Downs 1 460km, Hope Downs 4 501km and Marandoo 306km. Another branch from Rosella heads west to Brockman 4 326km via Nammuldi 290km and Brockman 2 293km, while the mainline continues from Rosella 250km on to Wombat Junction 280km where the Tom Price (291km) mine spur branches off west before continuing finally into Paraburdoo 386km.
A typical consist on the Tom Price line system which takes in all the southern mines, is three locomotives and 240 ore waggons loaded up to approximately 130 tonnes of ore.
Bank locomotives, operated by a pair of units, are used to push loaded trains along the following track segments:
Paraburdoo (389km) to Wombat Junction 280km (Tom Price);
Yandicoogina 447km (HIY), West Angelas 420km, Hope Downs 1 460km and Hope Downs 4 501km to Hawk Siding (350km).
The 'Lang Hancock Railway' is the name of the railway that connects the Hancock Prospecting owned Hope Downs 1 mine 460km (located 100km north west of Newman) to Rio Tinto system at Hancock Junction (406km) on the West Angelas line and started railing ore in December 2007. Following the success of Hope Downs 1 North and South deposits, Hope Downs 4 (30km north west of Newman) was then developed and commenced production including an additional 50km railway spur from Hope Downs 1 in 2013.
The other line is the Robe Valley line and continues on from Western Creek (72km) on the Cape Lambert line past the original loading sites at the 168km, the junction for the now branch to Mesa K and J is the 191km, with Mesa K (193km) and then Mesa J or Deepdale at the 196km while the mainline continues onto Mesa A - Warramboo at the 233.9km located 50km west of Pannawonica.
Operations on the Robe Valley line utilise two General Electric ES44ACi AC traction locomotives and 167 ore waggons known as J Cars with five trains to Mesa A and one to Mesa J a day on average. These captive ore waggons are the original Robe River 'J cars' or Robe Valley Waggons as they are now known, built by Nippon Sharyo Nihon, Tomlinson Steel WA, Centurion WA and the latest versions from Bradken.
These waggons only run between Cape Lambert and the Robe Valley being either Mesa A up to six trains per day or Mesa J (Deepdale) one train per day. These trains are restricted to the original Robe River Car Dumper #1 at Cape Lambert which dumps a one waggon at a time.
Historical Information (requires cleaning).
On the Deepdale line from Cape Lambert to Deepdale (Mesa J) anything up to 4 Dash 9 locos can run a train. But most common is 2 Dash 9 and 2 Dash 8 units per train. One short service uses 3 locos, most trains are around 234 waggons long. At Western Creek (72km) an interconnecting line runs round to the Tom Price line and joins this at Emu. This allows the West Angelas and Yandi trains to run direct to Cape Lambert.
The Tom Price railway runs from the Seven Mile Yard 280 km to Wombat Junction where the Tom Price (295 km) spur leaves the main to continue to Paraburdoo (385 km) with two branch lines diverting from Rosella Loop (251 km). One to Brockman (294 km) running west of Tom Price. And the other past Marandoo (300 km) and West Angelas to Yandicoogina (440 km) to the east of Tom Price.
The track side signals were removed years ago by Hamersley Iron and replaced with an 'Integrated Control Signalling System' (ICSS for short) which relays the limit of authority to the driver via the track to a display in the cab. The limit of authority is determined by the interlocking computers from commands that the train controller enters in a manner similar to CTC operation.
Train control over the whole network is carried out from Rio Tinto's state of the art remote control centre in Perth some 1500 kilometres from the operation. Control consisted of four train control desks. One desk is assigned to the Seven Mile Yard and both East Intercourse Island and Parker Point yards and dumpers, another assigned to the mainline from 7 Mile to the 238 kilometre on the mainline to Tom Price, another assigned to the south of the 238 kilometre on the Tom Price main, out to all the mines. And the forth desk is for the Deepdale line from Cape Lambert to Deepdale. Communications are carried out over a UHF radio network. A PDF file of all Pilbara railroad operating frequencies can be accessed here.
The rostering of the rail crews on the Tom Price mainline is similar to BHP Billiton Iron Ore, in that crews work an 'out and back' trip, with drivers located at Dampier, Tom Price and some mines on a 'Fly-in Fly-out' basis, working opposing trains and then changing over around the mid-way point of the journey when they need to cross. Pilbara Rail utilise single man crews and also have 'Mobile Enginemen' in motor cars to travel between mines and bank engine jobs.
Pilbara Rail acquired two ex BHP Billiton Dash 7 locos that were rebuilt by Goninan in Perth and numbered 5051 and 5052 in the Pilbara Rail colours. These 2 units work as shunters and are limited to 7 Mile yard and back and forth to the car dumpers. They are known locally as Bill and Ben, and are not very well liked.
For a current list of Pilbara Rail's locomotives, complete with -9 serial numbers, build dates and livery, click here: Pilbara Rail Loco Colours, or to download as a PDF here.
Hamersley Iron operates a modern fleet of General Electric C44-9W, or Dash 9 locomotives designated the 70 Class. These units are rated at 4,400 horsepower and allowed HI to totally replace their mixed ALCo, GE and EMD locomotive fleet in 1995, when a further 3 units arrived in early 2001 this delivery bolstered the fleet to 32 locos. These were the first locos in Australia to have the 'Rollerblade' style of bogie.
A typical consist is 2 Dash 9 locos on the point with up to 234 ore waggons trailing behind loaded with 105 tonnes of iron ore. They also use a banking pair of locos to push trains out of Paraburdoo up to Tom Price and also to push trains out of HIY (Yandicoogina). Hamersley Iron run the heaviest trains in the world with head end power.
Hamersley Iron operate their heavy haul railway from the Port of Dampier 280 km to Wombat Junction where the Tom Price (295 km) spur leaves the main to continue to Paraburdoo (385 km) with two branch lines diverting from Rosella Loop (251 km). One to Brockman (294 km) running west of Tom Price. And the other past Marandoo (300 km) to Yandicoogina (440 km) to the east of Tom Price.
Hamersley Iron removed their track side signals several years ago and replaced it with an 'In-cab Display', known as ICSS or Integrated Control Signalling System, which relays the trackage status to the driver from the train controller located in 7 Mile Yard (Dampier), and by extensive UHF radio coverage. The rostering of the rail crews differ somewhat from BHP Iron Ore, in that Hamersley crews work a type of change over arrangement with drivers located at both Dampier and Tom Price working opposing trains and then changing trains around the mid-way point of the journey where they need to cross. Hamersley Iron, like the rest of the Pilbara operators utilise single man crews. For more info here's
Rio Tinto Iron Ore website.
Cliffs Robe River Iron Associates (ROBE)
Revised historical information, updated 11/2017.
Cliffs Robe River Iron Associates (CRRIA) originally operated a 168 kilometre railway built in 1971 by Morrison-Knudson-Mannix-Oman (MKMO) from the crushing and port facilities at Cape Lambert (Point Walcott), located 16km to the north of the pioneer town of Roebourne, 4km west of Point Sampson and immediately north of the company town of Wickham, running a roughly south westerly direction inland to the mining area known as the Robe Valley, later known as Middle Robe and located east of the 'closed' company town of Pannawonica.
Original operations involved three heavy haul ALCo locomotives and 135 ore waggons with the safe working system being a radio based train order type system.
The railway line was extended in 1975 with a further 4km spur branching off at the 162.2km to the #2 Robe loadout and Mesa 2402E mining area.
A map excerpt can be
From 1982 mining started to move west along the Robe Valley to the East Deepdale involving mining of Mesa L, Mesa M and Mesa N before moving onto Mesa K in 1988 and then further to Mesa J (Deepdale) in 1992, where the current train loadout and yard is situated, 14km south west of Pannawonica.
The port consisted of an open air single waggon rotary dumper which empties the waggon into a gyratory 'secondary' crusher.
Loaded train consists were divided into two portions upon arrival in the yard from the mines for unloading through the car dumper, this also allows a faster train turnaround time.
The railway line heading south from Cape Lambert consisted of the car dumper at the 0km with workshops and maintenance facilities. Further south was the ballast loading and turning triangle or wye located at the 8km and then the rail maintenance yard at the 10km. On the line south the North West Coastal highway was crossed at a grade crossing at the 19.6km and it also passed over the Hamersley Iron Dampier - Tom Price railway at the 74km, and three crossing loops or passing sidings were also provided. These were originally just named as Siding One 42km, Siding Two 92km and Siding Three 133km, before being renamed to Harding, Maitland and Murray Camp respectively.
In later years most train departures were timed to allow the crossing of empty and loaded trains at Maitland Siding (Siding Two) and involved unmanned bank engines on the rear of the loaded trains to assist them up the steep grades between here and the mine. A shunt locomotive was also provided at the mine to allow the train locomotives from the arriving empty train to be removed and placed on the waiting loaded train to improve utilisation and turnaround times.
Loaded trains that were banked out of Mesa J to Maitland Siding normally employed a pair of unmanned CM40-8M GE locomotives controlled by the driver up the front of the train and these were uncoupled 'on the fly' at Maitland Siding. Once this practice was discontinued, utilisation of quad or four head-end only CM40-8M locomotives became the normal operating model with 202 waggons.
By late 2000 Robe River was in the advanced stages of developing its new West Angelas iron ore mine located 100km to the north west of Newman and the associated rail infrastructure and it also, through a court process, was in a very good position to be granted 'third party access' to portions of Hamersley Iron's railway network to allow it to reduce the outlay of building a parallel railway to run 170 waggon trains with two locomotives from Western Creek (on the Cape Lambert line) to the top of the Chichester Range and again through Karijini National Park along the Marandoo railway to gain access to West Angelas.
This in turn led to Rio Tinto launching a takeover or buyout of North Ltd (controlling interest) shares in Robe River in 2001, thus extinguishing the need for any third party rail access agreement.
Robe River had three new locomotives ordered from General Electric and these were specified to be identical to the current thirty two Hamersley Iron C44-9W units including the 'in -cab' ICSS signalling system, automatic train protection and direct locomotive control (DLC) which is a requirement to operate over the Hamersley Iron network and were the first locomotives to be delivered in the new Pilbara Rail livery but with ROBE reporting marks. They originally carried road numbers 9470, 9471 and 9472 with serial no. 53455, 53456 and 53457 built October 2001 and delivered to Cape Lambert on the 21st February 2002. They were subsequently re-numbered to better fit into the rest of the pooled Pilbara Rail locomotive roster of C44-9W locomotives as 9401-9402-9403. Also Robe ordered 336 ore waggons from Bradken NSW along the style of Hamersley Iron's modern 'S' series waggons.
Following the takeover of North Ltd.'s holding in Robe River Iron Associates by Rio Tinto two new companies were formed;
One to operate both Hamersley Iron and Robe Rivers' rail based assets called Pilbara Rail, and;
The second called Pilbara Iron and used to operate the joint groups' mining and port infrastructure. Capital for new locomotives and waggons comes from both Hamersley Iron and Robe River with locomotives and the 'S' series ore waggons carrying reporting marks of who supplied what, HI waggons were also painted 'Pilbara Red' and Robe waggons a grey colour.
The Robe River and Hamersley Iron railways then needed to have an interconnecting track at Western Creek, which leaves the Robe River Cape Lambert-Mesa J railway at the 72km and joins the Hamersley line at the 76.3km at the north end of Emu on the east mainline of the Dampier-Tom Price railway to allow West Angelas trains to access the HI network. As part of this 2002 network upgrade Siding One (later named Harding) was also increased in length to allow standard Hamersley Iron length trains of three locomotives and for 240 waggons. Standard Robe practice at the time was for two locomotives and 170 waggons, and their original West Angelas proposal was based on this. A new car dumper to suit the 'M' waggon types was also built at Cape Lambert to allow the West Angelas ore to be dumped there.
Train Control over the line from Cape Lambert to Deepdale was done out of Cape Lambert yard and utilised a train order method of safe working.
Following the merger, train control moved to Hamersley Iron's Seven Mile yard complex and then CTC was also bought into operation on the line from Cape Lambert to Western Creek, with train orders being used from Western Creek to Mesa J (Deepdale). The Cape Lambert-Mesa J railway line also utilises a number of voice announcing defect detectors for hot box (bearing) detection and these can be readily heard over the UHF radio system if you have a scanner and help to locate trains and their direction.
The Robe River locomotive fleet in 2000-2 consisted of:
A Cliffs Robe River Iron Associates ALCo roster with rebuild data can be found here.
- 4 ALCo M-636 units 9412, 9413, 9215, 9416;
- 2 ALCo C-636R - Comeng rebuild units 9426 and 9427;
- 12 CM40-8M GE rebuild units 9410-9411, 9414, 9417-9425, which ended up assigned as shunt units at Seven Mile and Cape Lambert and as extra power on Deepdale services;
- 3 GE C44-9W units 9470-9472, renumbered 9401 to 9403 and added to the Pilbara Rail pooled fleet.
Older Robe River images.