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Monday Train Blogging: Heavy Haul

by DoDo Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 09:05:00 AM EST

Generally speaking, freight trains are the more economic the more freight you can stuff on a single train. The limits to push are:

  • train length (must bee less than length of stations/sidings)
  • loading gauge (= height & width, must fit beside/under buildings/tunnels/trees/overpasses)
  • axleload (=weight supported by a single wheelset, rail and trackbed must survive it)

Pushing the limits leads to some strange solutions – below two that I expect to look rather strange for people on the respective other side of the pond:

Double-stack container train (USA) Bogie of a low-floor RoLa train with four mini-wheels (Europe)

Previous Monday Train Bloggings:

  1. (Premiere/ modern Austrian trains & locos)
  2. Adventure
  3. Fast Steam

Mining railways

...are the ones who can really exploit all three possibilities. In 2001, a record test train of almost 100,000 tons (in it 82,262 tons iron ore) ran on BHP Billiton's Pilbara line in Australia. The eight 6000-HP locomotives pulled 682 cars – 7.4 km in length! But even regular trains are up to half that long. For comparison with the next two: axleload is now up to 40 t.


US railroads, with not much to limit their size, and a network of long lines relatively simple to upgrade, also grew rather big. But, while high axleloads (30–35 metric tons) would make stuffing two containers upon each other only logical, doing so in practice was a formidable challenge even in the USA (it started only in 1977).

The center of gravity had to be lowered somehow (wind is a danger), and even with low-floor cars, the double-stack loading gauge, a metre higher than normal, forced some tunnel/overpass rebuilding – in Europe, they'd tear down overhead wires1...

Europe (-Russia)

On our continent, a network too complex and with lots of stations won't allow an increase of train length. Dense buildup, historical buildings and 'well-built' old railroads mean loading gauge can't be increased. Unless a lot of track is replaced, raising axleload won't be practical either – so just on mainlines, it took half a century to go from 15–20 tons to today's 20–25 tons.

But, some tricks can still be made. Two decades ago, to transport the biggest (=highest) lorries, engineers designed special low-floor-throughout RoLa2 cars: with wheels a third of a normal freight car's in diameter, and four-five wheelsets on a bogie instead of two (so that axles don't break).

(I note that where I work, my collagues once had to investigate these cars – they proved that their derailment conditions are completely different from normal wagons, f.e. speeding across switches decreases the risk!)

  1. Double-stack loading gauge is 20'2" (6.15 m) high; in Europe, caternary is ideally 6 m above rails, in tunnels it can be as low as 5 m.
  2. This semi-official term is the abbrevation of their funny German name: Rollende Landstraße = rolling country road.

I'm off (late) for my French course; if this hour is still too early for such an 'unserious' post, next week I post it in my diary and ask someone to promote it in the evening.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 09:07:20 AM EST
Nah, after lunch we're all getting sleepy anyway.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 11:26:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
on the other hand, your train series is good, and it slides off the page so quickly...so maybe worth posting as a diary, so it hangs around awhile.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 03:42:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yeah, I like, what you are doing with the bridge diary... (-:
by PeWi on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 06:53:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
CEBX 800 at Sedalia, Colorado (south of Denver). Possibly a slow picture load...

From http://southern.railfan.net/schnabel/cars/cebx800/cebx800.html

by asdf on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 12:18:42 PM EST
Fantastic picture!  I followed some links from there to find Tom's Train Pages, with many photos of unusual and heavy lift trains.
by corncam on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 03:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seconded on the picture!

The construction looked familiar - I followed your link to check, indeed this record-holder giant was built by Krupp in Germany. Which is strange, for is twice a big (by carried weight) than the biggest for the home market!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 05:37:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pah, wat Krupp in Essen, sin' wir in trinken.

sorry, that does not translate...

Krupp had their major factories in Germanys fifths city: Essen (which also means to eat.) So Krupp is big in eating, we are big in drinking....

by PeWi on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 06:56:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The New Yorker just recently completed a two-part article by John McPhee on coal trains in the U.S.  I've been able to locate an online version here of Part I, but cannot find anything for Part II.  The articles are more specifically about moving coal over the rails from the Powder River Basin mines in Wyoming to other points in the country.

The stories ran in the Oct. 3 and Oct. 10 issues, for anyone who can get hold of them in hard copy.  Like most of McPhee's writing, it's highly recommended.  He's able to provide a real sense of things, both on the micro (riding along on the trains) and macro (overall impact on the industry and environment) level.

by The Maven on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 02:23:00 PM EST
ah I love goods transported on the railways. so here some pictures from my "local" train - truck - interlink in Wuppertal.

their page is full of fantastic pictures interestingly enough they are based around the trainstations, describing the kind of trains that commuted from these stations, including the freight they were transporting.

please check it out. fantastic train designs.

see if you can find the: Schienenzeppelin

by PeWi on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 06:50:15 PM EST
oh, and there is this picture as well, somewhere:

by PeWi on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 06:51:42 PM EST

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