Rail solutions for short hauls are not commonly used on Southern African mines, but, with technology available locally and significantly larger tonnages that can be moved quickly, efficiently and safely, there are good reasons to consider rail as part of a mine’s internal hauling infrastructure, states freight and logistics service provider Grindrod.
The RS7S3C diesel electric direct current locomotive, known as the Genset locomotive, was developed by JSE-listed Grindrod’s rail division, Grindrod Locomotives, to provide customers with a cost-effective solution for their shunting and short-haul operations.
The Genset locomotive is manufactured standard with a 521.9 kW C18 CAT engine and an in-house digital control system and is designed for affordability and low running costs, as well as cleaner emissions.
Grindrod Locomotives CEO Robert Spoon says the Genset locomotive is “unparalleled” in the market as it offers fit-for-purpose tractive effort in shunting and short-haul rail operations.
Grindrod Locomotives, which is based in Pretoria, provides rail engineering solutions for clients across the African continent.
This includes the design, engineering and manufacturing of locomotives and wagons to meet specific client requirements, as well as locomotive leasing, rolling stock refurbishment and locomotive and wagon maintenance.
Meanwhile, Spoon highlights that the company’s clients vary from mainline rail operators requiring long-haul locomotives to large and medium- sized mining operations with a need for short haul, branch line or shunting locomotives.
He says that the Genset locomotive was specifically designed to meet the need to move bulk commodities within large mining and industrial operations.
“These units can be used to move thousands of tons simultaneously in the mining, heavy industry and manufacturing sectors – in short, any business requiring large materials handling facilities over short distances,” says Spoon.
“We are convinced that this product will excel in the niche it was developed for.”
A two-axle option, the RS7S2C, also powered by the CAT C18 engine, is also available for applications where load tonnages are lower, or for smaller, more frequent hauls.
“Several of these new locomotives are already operating successfully for a variety of end-users, including Grindrod Operations, which performs short-haul and shunting services and transports about two-million tons a month of various bulk commodities from railway sidings and branch lines on behalf of major blue-chip mining companies and other bulk customers requiring specialised rail-related services,” Spoon adds.
Grindrod’s footprint extends into several African countries including the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Further, he states that the company’s selection of a customised CAT C18 engine as standard in the Genset locomotive was based not only on the proven earthmoving machinery and construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar’s technology, but also on the ability of power equipment company Barloworld Power, the Southern African dealer for CAT power systems, to support it.
A Joint Solution
Barloworld Power’s relationship with Grindrod Locomotives began about three years ago, when two stationary CAT generator sets were ordered from Barloworld as part of a pilot project to drive a 60 t shunting locomotive.
A joint initiative between Grindrod, Barloworld Power and Caterpillar led to a subsequent decision to change to the head-end power (HEP) engine, which was better suited to this application.
“The CAT C18 HEP engine is designed to power the locomotive completely and no additional generator sets are required, thus saving space and cost,” explains Barloworld Power’s Boksburg industrial sales manager, Venash Raghunanan.
“The CAT C18 is a six-cylinder in-line engine delivering 525 kW at 1 500 rpm. For many years, Caterpillar has been designing engines which have proved successful in a wide variety of conditions and applications around the world.”
Raghunanan points out that CAT engines traditionally perform well in this type of rugged, continuous operation.
Further, he notes that the collaborative project to find the best suited power solution resulted in some minor changes to the Cat C18 to meet Grindrod’s needs and the company placed an order for six engines with Barloworld Power in March this year.
“All models of Grindrod’s Genset locomotive will be offered standard with the CAT engine supplied by Barloworld Power in the future.”
Raghunanan adds that while Barloworld Power works with other original-equipment manufacturers in the rail sector by powering up new locomotives and providing replacement engines, the collaboration with Grindrod has provided an “excellent opportunity” for the company to showcase the capabilities of its purpose-designed and -built CAT engine.
Moreover, he states that Barloworld Power is looking forward to partnering with Grindrod and its customers to ensure that the locomotives have long and productive lives.
“Our parts availability, condition monitoring and fluid analysis services, engine rebuild capabilities and strong after-sales team throughout Southern Africa will be critical to providing after-sales support wherever it is needed.
“We believe the opportunities for movement of commodities by rail, both within mining operations and to ports and beneficiation plants, will form a significant and exciting part of Barloworld Power’s future together with Caterpillar in Southern Africa,” Raghunanan concludes.