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Sophisticated Simplicity Heavy Haul Operations Supported by Proven Technology Mike Darby Karribrook WA Pty Ltd Presentation Overview What is “Sophisticated Simplicity”? BHP Billiton’s Railway NW Australia BHPB’s use of technology

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sophisticated simplicity


Heavy Haul Operations Supported by Proven Technology

Mike Darby

Karribrook WA Pty Ltd

presentation overview

Presentation Overview

What is “Sophisticated Simplicity”?

BHP Billiton’s Railway NW Australia

BHPB’s use of technology

Example of Sophisticated Simplicity in a Heavy Haul Railway Operations supported by proven technology



what is sophisticated simplicity
What is Sophisticated Simplicity?

Traditional Approach

Simple System

Proven Technologies

bhp billiton ltd
BHP Billiton Ltd
  • Is the worlds largest diversified resources company (>US$100 billion)
  • Global resource development company
  • BHP Billiton Iron Ore located in Northern Australia:
    • Developed a “Fit for Purpose” Railway
    • Operates in a harsh and isolated environment
    • Operates the heaviest axle loads/trains in the world
history of the bhp billiton railway
History of the BHP Billiton Railway
  • Mt Whaleback was the largest single iron ore deposit in the world (>1 billion tonnes)
  • Historically Iron Ore deposits in Western Australia seen as too far (400 km) from tidewater prior to heavy haul railways
  • Heavy haul rail line built in 1969 by North American contractor
  • In 1970 Oroville Dam Project cars and dumpers brought from California to Australia / evolved as a North American Railroad
  • Regulated by Mines Department not DOT
bhp billiton iron ore railway
BHP Billiton Iron Ore Railway

Operating Philosophies:

  • Good Safety Is Good Business
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Use Assets to Their Full Potential
  • Research and Development

Proven Technologies

  • High axle load issues
  • Hot bearing-Hot/Cold Wheel Detectors
  • Wheel Impact Monitor
  • “Weigh-in-Motion” Weighbridges
  • Acoustic Bearing Detection
  • Instrumented ore cars
  • Auto Locomotive Downloads
  • Video Imaging
  • Workshop Initiatives
axle load evolution
Axle Load Evolution

Axle Loading

40 tonnes

35.0 tonnes

32.5 tonnes

30.0 tonnes

28.5 tonnes










issues with 40 tonne axle load
Issues with 40 tonne Axle Load
  • “Thermit” Welds/Flash Butt Welds
    • 6000 “Thermit” welds – 2% failure/annum
    • 35000 flash butt welds - .008% failure/annum
    • Program in place to replace “thermit” welds
  • Rail Grinding Program
  • Wheel/Rail Interface
  • Weekly Rail Ultra Sonic Inspection

Stress Free Temperature (SFT)

  • Incorrect SFT leads to:
    • Track buckles – when hot
    • Rail Breaks – when cold
  • 1,000 meters rail @ 60°C is 999.386meters @ 5°C
  • 25°C change causes 92 tonnes of tensile force
  • “Thermit” welds
    • Sensitive to SFT & lateral loading
  • Concrete SFT 33 - 38°C
  • Timber & Steel SFT 35 - 40°
painting welds
Painting Welds

Reduce lateral loading

hot cold wheel bearing detection
Hot/Cold Wheel/Bearing Detection
  • 18 hot bearing wheel detectors
  • 1 cold wheel detector
  • Automated and site activated
impact detection weigh in motion
Impact Detection & Weigh-In Motion
  • 1 impact load detector
  • 4 weigh-in motion scales
acoustic bearing detection
Acoustic Bearing Detection
  • Following faults are detected:
    • Cone Faults
    • Roller Faults
    • Audible Wheel Flats
    • Cup Faults
    • Looseness / fretting
    • Noisy Wheel sets (flanging)
instrumented ore cars ioc
Instrumented Ore Cars (IOC)
  • 4 IOC’s in service
  • Vertical suspension travel (ride quality)
  • Wheel-rail acceleration (rail condition)
  • In-train forces
  • Lateral stability (hunting)
  • Longitudinal acceleration
  • Car body/draft gear pocket strains
  • Temperature
  • Brake pipe pressure
auto locomotive downloads
Auto Locomotive Downloads
  • The “Black-Box” is downloaded at each arrival at port
    • Driver education/incident management
    • Fuel utilization
    • Data for automated train operation
    • All operating parameters
video imaging
Video Imaging


  • Flange Height
  • Flange Width
  • Vertical Flange
  • Hollowing Depth
  • Rim Thickness
  • Wheel Diameter
workshop initiatives
Workshop Initiatives
  • Component Tracking
  • Ultra-Sonic Wheel Testing
  • Super Clean Wheel Specs
  • Bearing Quality Assurance
  • “H” Class Bearings
  • 40 tonne trucks
  • Side Wall Thickness Tracking
  • Asset Protection Information Integration

Coupler Inspection

  • Developed in UK, for in-situe inspection
  • Uses ultrasonic probe inserted through the drain hole
  • Detect lower pulling lug cracks which are the primary mode of failure for fixed & rotary couplers
bhp iron ore railroad
BHP Iron Ore Railroad

Productivity Results

Ore Car Wheel Life

1980 2006

million km million km Life extension

0.34 1.95 6.5 fold increase

Rail Life (Tangent Track)

1980 2006

million gross million gross

metric tonnes metric tonnes Life extension

350 1,200 3.4 fold increase

R&D into the rail/wheel interface allows for the useful life of assets to be extended


Employee Productivity Tripled in the last 10 years

(‘000’s tonnes per employee /yr)

heavy haul railways of the future
Heavy Haul Railways of the Future
  • KIS: Keep it simple
    • Train operation designed with minimum interfaces
  • Implicit safe operation
    • Design the operation to avoid train movements
  • Intense capital utilization
    • Use assets to the fullest
  • Integrated knowledge process implementation
    • Proven technology to protect assets

The Knowledge Process


data collection




System management

what s in the future
What’s in the Future ?
  • Continued safety focus
  • Human resource efficiency
  • Higher axle loads
  • Evolution of “Cruise Control”
  • Automated trains
  • Electric brakes
electric brakes
Electric Brakes
  • Handbrakes on grades can be managed
  • Ease of train handling
    • all brakes on and off simultaneously within 7 seconds
    • graduated release
    • Faster brake charging time
  • Reduced in train coupler forces and less brake shoe wear
  • Distributed power (no radio based locotrol)
  • End of train monitoring
  • Brake system charges while brakes are applied
  • Load / empty features not required
advantages cont
Advantages cont.
  • Faster train cycle time
    • Faster accelerations brakes release sooner
    • May be able to increase speed of loaded trains
    • Graduated release of train brakes
  • Individual wagon brake status monitoring
  • Fault finding i.e. train break location
  • Faster train brake charging times (uses less air)
  • Fuel savings as brakes release faster
  • Increased wheel life
    • No sticking brakes / hot wheels
  • Even wearing brake shoes
highway for future developments
“Highway” for future Developments
  • Derailment detection
  • Hot bearing / hot wheel detection
  • Hand brake status
  • “GPS” train braking

(individual brakes graduated as loads traverse undulation)

  • Car weights linked to load out facilities

(ensures each car is loaded to maximum)

  • Automated trains platform


“Move 6 million tonnes of product per annum a distance of 100 km”


Traditional Approach

Simple Approach

  • 250 cars/wagons
  • 7 locomotives
  • Rotary/Bottom dump wagons
  • Rotary or bottom dump station
  • 80 employees
  • Extensive track/yard system
  • Cost for plant >US$100 million
  • High maintenance costs
  • 80 cars/wagons
  • 3 locomotives (Push/Pull)
  • Side dump cars/wagons
  • Flat unloading platform
  • 35 employees
  • Simple track/yard system
  • Cost for plant <US$30 million
  • Less plant to maintain
  • Supported by proven technology