Railways, as an American railroad entrepreneur I know often reminds me, are, like UFO sightings, a stealth industry.
By that he means that railways often operate out of sight and out of mind and when stuff happens – the derailments, rollovers, collisions and other assorted railway dramas that make this business so, well, interesting – they tend to do so out of the public eye.
Which is why the news of last Thursday’s massive ore train derailment in the remote, dry wastes east of Saldanha Bay have taken time to filter in from the desert.
About 107 wagons and two locomotives on a loaded, westbound ore train, came off the rails 205km from the port. Part of the train was crossing a high viaduct at the time and a number of wagons sailed dozens of metres through the air to crumpled oblivion in the dry riverbed below.
Those 107 wagons were probably carrying about 34 000 tonnes of ore. That’s a lot of rock to pick up, but at least it can be loaded back into a railcar and sent off to its destination unlike, say, avocado pears, or brand-new luxury German saloon cars … Whew!
Transnet has dispatched a team to the wreck site, while workers are busy attempting to move the wreckage which is currently blocking the line.
The cause of the accident is not yet known but it is most likely the fault of a broken rail, say sources.
Broken rails are a fact of life in this business. The extremes of heat and cold acting on the heavy steel, along the with weight of heavy trains are contributing factors. And there’s precious little that the crew can do to prevent such things. That’s railroading for you.