GE Transportation is working with Roy Hill mine in Australia’s remote Pilbara region to help the mining company haul iron ore in the extreme condition, where temperatures reach 55°C.
Roy Hill recently bought 21 Pilbara-ready, heavy-haul GE locomotives and moves 55 million tonnes of ore every year over more than 200 miles of private track, from the mine to a custom-built port stockyard south of Port Headland.
Fraser Borden from GE Transportation said: "We don’t run a locomotive anywhere in the world that’s hotter than here."
Each 232-car train is powered by four 4,400hp locomotives and will zip down the mine’s track at 50 miles per hour with more than 30,000t of ore.
The mine has plans to run five trains daily.
The locomotives are integrated with some 250 sensors that monitor speed, temperature, and other conditions, sending nine million data points every hour over 6.6 miles of wiring to a system called Locotrol Distributed Power.
Crew sitting on the lead locomotive at the head of the train can remotely control unmanned locomotives in the middle and the end of the train with Locotrol.
The system also allows the driver to move the train remotely in the middle of the desert and inspect. Trains can also report their health status through the wireless checkpoints installed along the track.
Borden said: "Every time they go past that point, they transmit data that’s received at our remote monitoring and diagnostic centre in Erie, Pa, and that enables us to get a status update on the locomotives, the different parameters of oil and water temperature and so on."
The locomotives, which could become completely automated in the future, will allow Roy Hill to run driverless trains.
GE Transportation on-board electronics leader RJ Foy said: "Small, light trains are operated driverless today at airports and some metro systems.
"We are working on extending that technology to automate the massive 1.5-mile-long, 30,000t freight trains that Roy Hill wants to run."
Image: 21 GE Evolution Series locomotives will haul 55 million tonnes of iron ore. Photo: courtesy of Roy Hill.