I have always been fascinated by the remote heavy-haul railroads such as those in the Pilbara region of Western Australia -
a world apart from the dense urban-orientated railways of western Europe - and first had the chance to pay a visit to the
area in November 2005, via Singapore and Perth. I wanted to meet-up with local railfan Richard 'Toad' Montgomery, but
he was over in the other side of Oz at the time, and I am indebted to him for the advice and information he gave prior to
my visit, without which the trip would not have been nearly as successful.
The two main carriers in the Pilbara - BHP Billiton and Pilbara Rail (formerly Hamersley Iron, now part of Rio Tinto) operate
mainly-downhill mine-to-port iron ore operations that are independant of each other and of the national rail network. Both
operators also have trackside access roads that - due to the area's remoteness - are made available for public use. As a
result it is very easy to get as many pictures of passing trains as you can fit on to a memory card! A third company -
Fortescue Metals - started business in May 2008.
After a one-night stop-over in Perth, I headed up by air to Port Hedland and collected my four-wheel-drive car from the
rental firm, only to find out that the car was actually an open-backed pick-up!! The short stay in the Pilbara meant that I
had insufficient time to venture south to the mines but spent two days around the northern section of the BHP before
transferring across to Dampier to check-out Pilbara Rail's activities as far south as the Millstream-Chichester region.
Another three days in Perth followed before heading up to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to complete the trip.
Copyright: Stu Levene, 2008.