Double Stacking for the Mt Isa line

 
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

The Queensland Government is currently undertaking a study into providing double stacking for the Mt Isa line. With relatively few overpasses or structures above the rail corridor, the clearance works involved would appear to be reasonably simple. This may be the first time that full double stacking has been attempted on narrow gauge.

https://www.railexpress.com.au/study-to-assess-double-stacked-freight-on-mount-isa-line/

Sponsored advertisement

  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Additional details - it's part of a $50-million funding boost for the Mt Isa line announced in Queensland parliament today. Double stacking is being investigated between Mt Isa and Stuart (Aurizon and PN yards), with the potential to run double stack all the way to the Townsville Port - there is one two-lane and two four-lane overpasses between Stuart and the port, two of which have been built in the last five years.

https://statements.qld.gov.au/statements/90406
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
How would this go load wise, would being on NG lead to lower loadings to keep the centre of gravity low?

Also, how much call is there for DS on the line?
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

The line has been almost entirely relaid with concrete sleepers over the last twenty years, replacing 1000km of them would be almost certainly out of the question. With all concrete bridges (except the steel Burdekin River bridge), current 20-tonne axle loads could be pushed to 26.5-tonnes at some point.

My initial thoughts -  this plan may be relying on empty containers being placed on top of loaded containers in each direction. With the flow of various containerized commodities in each direction, loading in such a manner would be practical.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Is there demand to double stack due to path shortages?  In other words what is driving this review.
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

My initial thoughts -  this plan may be relying on empty containers being placed on top of loaded containers in each direction. With the flow of various containerized commodities in each direction, loading in such a manner would be practical.
Sulla1
If the top deck of containers are empty, why bother carrying them? Do the different commodities require different containers?
  GT46C-ACe Assistant Commissioner

Location: Sydney, NSW
Stack an empty concentrate box on a loaded tanktainer, stack an empty tanktainer on a loaded concentrate box, for example.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Is there demand to double stack due to path shortages?  In other words what is driving this review.
bevans
The demand would be to maximise the use of each individual train path, it appears to be a cheaper option than lengthening crossing loops for longer trains - current train lengths are limited to 1000m.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

My initial thoughts -  this plan may be relying on empty containers being placed on top of loaded containers in each direction. With the flow of various containerized commodities in each direction, loading in such a manner would be practical.
If the top deck of containers are empty, why bother carrying them? Do the different commodities require different containers?
duttonbay

Yes, different container types are loaded or empty depending on the direction of travel. Cement tanktainers go out loaded and come back empty, as do the sulphur containers. Concentrate containers and anode racks (containers) go out empty and come back loaded. Coke containers go west with coke and come back loaded with anodes. The Dugald River train already double stacks its half height containers when they run empty west to haul additional empties.
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
I would doubt the economics to do so stack up (pardon the pun), its marginal for the Inland. Longer trains and / or converting some passing loops to passing lanes would be better.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

I would doubt the economics to do so stack up (pardon the pun), its marginal for the Inland. Longer trains and / or converting some passing loops to passing lanes would be better.
RTT_Rules

Based on cost, implementation does make sense, there are 45 crossing loops between Stuart and Mt Isa, but only a handful of overhead structures. Lowering the track height in a few places would be a lot cheaper and faster than lengthening crossing loops at many locations. Whether double stacking and handling is practical for the commodities and destinations involved will be the biggest question I think. In 2009 the cost of extending all crossing loops for 1,450m trains and an operating capacity of 12.5-million tonnes was estimated to be $788-million.

The other issue is, while double-stacking would allude to full height containers on well-wagons, in this case - and based on the sheer number of half height concentrate containers now used on the line - "Double-stacking" may actually mean half heights and full heights being stacked on conventional container wagons.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Is there demand to double stack due to path shortages?  In other words what is driving this review.
The demand would be to maximise the use of each individual train path, it appears to be a cheaper option than lengthening crossing loops for longer trains - current train lengths are limited to 1000m.
Sulla1

I recall reading there were in the order of 84 paths per week on that line how much capacity is being used now as I understand a lot of business has moved to road under aurzon?
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Is there demand to double stack due to path shortages?  In other words what is driving this review.
The demand would be to maximise the use of each individual train path, it appears to be a cheaper option than lengthening crossing loops for longer trains - current train lengths are limited to 1000m.

I recall reading there were in the order of 84 paths per week on that line how much capacity is being used now as I understand a lot of business has moved to road under aurzon?
bevans

The business moved to road when Glencore tried to move all of its freight to its existing PN contract. PN didn't have the capacity to move all of the business and around 1-million tonnes went to road. Aurizon has since recovered most of this freight having negotiated a new contract with Glencore, restarting services in late 2018. The line sees around 10 to 11 trains per day and is in a state of "business recovery" after the horror year of 2017 when train counts fell to as low as six to eight per day. The line has an operating capacity for 112 paths per week, but in practice 88 paths is considered the practical limit when delays, track work and other operational issues are taken into account.

The Queensland Government has also reduced track access fees by around 20%, which appears to be helping the rail recovery.

Aurizon has since purchased a port handling company at the Townsville Port to provide a seamless "one stop shop" from mine to ship container handling. At this stage it would appear Aurizon is the main proponent for the double stacking plan and is putting its own money on the line to grow the container business on the corridor.

Aurizon has also started combining acid and fertilizer trains between Townsville and Phosphate Hill to reduce the number of paths needed for the Incitec Fertilizer contract.
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

Thanks for the answers about the empty/loaded containers.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

The ABC North West Queensland (Mt Isa) is reporting Glencore will make a decision in the next four to six weeks whether to re-brick the Mt Isa Copper Smelter or close the plant in 2022. The plant - plus the downstream Townsville Copper Refinery - was originally scheduled to be closed in 2016, but this decision was reversed in 2015 with operations continuing. The Mt Isa Copper Smelter can produce up to 300,000-tonnes of copper anode per year, but production is usually around 220,000-tonnes smelted from around 1-million tonnes of copper concentrate.

If the scenario where the plant closes is selected, the 1-million-tonnes of copper concentrates will need to be railed from Mt Isa to Townsville, requiring the successful rail operator to run at least one extra concentrate train per day from Mt Isa each day.

In addition, the 1.35-million tonne/annum Mt Isa Incitec Pivot sulphuric acid plant is supplied with sulphur dioxide from the copper smelter scrubbers - the acid plant will have to either import additional containerised sulphur via Townsville to stay in operation or close. If the acid plant closes, Incitec Pivot will have to begin importing 1-million tonnes of sulphuric acid via Townsville to supply the Phosphate Hill fertilizer plant. The domino effects of Glencore's decision could increase rail freight tonnages between Townsville and Flynn (junction for the Phosphate Hill) by around 30%.    

This additional traffic in both directions - and how to cost effectively haul it - is potentially a primary contributing factor driving the current double-stacking study.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
Are there other cases of double stacked containers operating on narrow gauge anywhere else in the world Question

Mike.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Do we need to define 'double stacking' to exclude 'half heights' two up?
Real double stacking should include at least one 'full height' box ie 8 foot or more?
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

Double-stacking of half height containers is already standard practice on the Mt Isa line.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Double-stacking of half height containers is already standard practice on the Mt Isa line.
Sulla1
Thanks Sulla1.
I like your posts as I know little of rail in Bananaland.
Reading back through the thread (especially yours of 13/8) it seems that we might really be talking here of one and a half height stacking rather than true double stacking to around ~6 metres above rail. Have I got that much right, please?
(Not that I would expect the spin doctors, politicians or many here on RP to know the difference.)  Smile
  bingley hall Minister for Railways

Location: Last train to Skaville
(Not that I would expect the spin doctors, politicians or many here on RP to know the difference.)  Smile
"YM-Mundrabilla"


In the greater scheme does it really matter? One container is still being stacked on top of another. I don't think AN ever had copyright on the term 'double -stack'.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

I have suspicions the double-stacking will be one and a half stacks on conventional container wagons, to better utilize the existing wagon fleet.

However all the official statements have been for "double-stacking" without much explanation - so it could just as easily be conventional full height double-stacking in a new fleet of well wagons.
  james.au Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney, NSW
In addition, the 1.35-million tonne/annum Mt Isa Incitec Pivot sulphuric acid plant is supplied with sulphur dioxide from the copper smelter scrubbers - the acid plant will have to either import additional containerised sulphur via Townsville to stay in operation or close. If the acid plant closes, Incitec Pivot will have to begin importing 1-million tonnes of sulphuric acid via Townsville to supply the Phosphate Hill fertilizer plant. The domino effects of Glencore's decision could increase rail freight tonnages between Townsville and Flynn (junction for the Phosphate Hill) by around 30%.    

This additional traffic in both directions - and how to cost effectively haul it - is potentially a primary contributing factor driving the current double-stacking study.
Sulla1
The 30% lift assumes the option of closure of the Glencore smelter doesnt lead to the closure of the Incitec Pivot acid plant.  How likely is a double closure option?

Though even in this case, the concentrate traffic should continue, so thats a ~15% increase if there is double closure.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
I have suspicions the double-stacking will be one and a half stacks on conventional container wagons, to better utilize the existing wagon fleet.

However all the official statements have been for "double-stacking" without much explanation - so it could just as easily be conventional full height double-stacking in a new fleet of well wagons.
Sulla1
Thanks Sulla1.

Being something of a cynic where government announcements are concerned, I suspect that one and a half stacks on conventional container wagons may well be the case assuming that this meets wagon carrying capacity and axleload limits. Nevertheless I have been wrong before.

I have no knowledge of rolling stock and structure gauge dimensions on the route but wonder that if well wagons are proposed whether they will encounter clearance issues 'down low' which was one problem to be overcome on SG. Well wagons  sacrifice train length too when compared with standard wagons and, as such, are not necessarily 100% 'all profit'.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

In addition, the 1.35-million tonne/annum Mt Isa Incitec Pivot sulphuric acid plant is supplied with sulphur dioxide from the copper smelter scrubbers - the acid plant will have to either import additional containerised sulphur via Townsville to stay in operation or close. If the acid plant closes, Incitec Pivot will have to begin importing 1-million tonnes of sulphuric acid via Townsville to supply the Phosphate Hill fertilizer plant. The domino effects of Glencore's decision could increase rail freight tonnages between Townsville and Flynn (junction for the Phosphate Hill) by around 30%.    

This additional traffic in both directions - and how to cost effectively haul it - is potentially a primary contributing factor driving the current double-stacking study.
The 30% lift assumes the option of closure of the Glencore smelter doesnt lead to the closure of the Incitec Pivot acid plant.  How likely is a double closure option?

Though even in this case, the concentrate traffic should continue, so thats a ~15% increase if there is double closure.
james.au

Incitec Pivot is already under a lot pressure due gas supplies and prices - in recent years the Phosphate Hill plant was having difficulties renewing a long term gas supply contract due to domestic shortages caused by export demand. If the acid plant closes and imported acid via Townsville is too expensive to supply, then a closure of the entire Phosphate Hill operation - and the loss of around 2.25-million tonnes of railed product - would be possible. To maintain operating equilibrium in these integrated businesses, the status quo of keeping the smelter open is the best option on the table for the Mt Isa region. There are certainly best case and worst case scenarios if the smelter does close.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

I have suspicions the double-stacking will be one and a half stacks on conventional container wagons, to better utilize the existing wagon fleet.

However all the official statements have been for "double-stacking" without much explanation - so it could just as easily be conventional full height double-stacking in a new fleet of well wagons.
Thanks Sulla1.

Being something of a cynic where government announcements are concerned, I suspect that one and a half stacks on conventional container wagons may well be the case assuming that this meets wagon carrying capacity and axleload limits. Nevertheless I have been wrong before.

I have no knowledge of rolling stock and structure gauge dimensions on the route but wonder that if well wagons are proposed whether they will encounter clearance issues 'down low' which was one problem to be overcome on SG. Well wagons  sacrifice train length too when compared with standard wagons and, as such, are not necessarily 100% 'all profit'.
YM-Mundrabilla
The Mt Isa Line generally has standard gauge clearances, and PN is already using former standard gauge wagons between Townsville and Mt Isa. Well wagons would mostly raise issues with high level platforms I'd say, but there are very few along this corridor, and I think the few platforms encountered at Charters Towers, Hughenden, Cloncurry and Mt Isa could be avoided by using other yard tracks. Most other stations have low level platforms from memory.

Sponsored advertisement

Subscribers: bevans, Jack Le Lievre

Display from: