Just over a week ago, Watco Western Australia and our Customer and partner, CBH Group, broke the record for the longest and largest grain train ever operated on the continent.
The 1.8 kilometer, or 1.1 mile, long train consisted of 120 wagons. Its three locomotives helped CBH deliver 9,000 tons of grain to port at Kwinana Grain Terminal, just south of Perth. It’s estimated that the move replaced at least 155 trucks.
That’s not the most important part, though. The train was run as a trial and is the continuation of an effort between CBH and Watco to maximize the utilization of CBH’s rolling stock and transport the grain as efficiently as possible.
“CBH’s belief in the value of rail and their willingness to invest capital into the locomotives and wagons is the driver behind our ability to lower freight rates and move more tonnage with less equipment,” said Watco CEO Rick Webb.
They’ve done just that. In the first year, 2012, freight rates decreased 7 percent. Today, rail freight rates are 20 percent lower than in 2010-2011. A big part of that has been the continued effort to maximize efficiency. The record that was broken was CBH and Watco’s own 2016 record. That train was 1.3 kilometers (.8 mile) long with 88 wagons and moved 6,500 tons of grain. The success of that trial led the 88-wagon trains to be regular part of rail operations.
“We learnt a lot when running the previous 88 wagon-train in 2016, and through this trial, we’ll build on those learnings to make sure we get growers’ grain to market in the most efficient and cost effective way possible,” said CBH general manager-operations David Capper.
Safety is also paramount when trying something new. CBH consulted with Arc Infrastructure while planning the 2018 trial. Their assistance was a key factor in making sure the record train met safe operating standards.
CBH’s investment and commitment to ensuring the best value for their growers is a large factor in what put the plan in motion, but it’s Watco’s boots on the ground that kept it rolling. Watco WA chief operating officer Grant Thompson says the outcome is especially great because senior management was not involved with the project. It was managed and driven by Watco Team Members in the field working with CBH.
The Team that operated the record train (L to R): Russell Griffiths, Darren Bayley, JP Van Vuuren, Jorja Fitzgerald, Peter Anderson, Freg Kregers, and Kerry McMillian.
“Your team is a measure of how great your company truly is. This 120-wagon train was driven and executed safely because of the discipline and focus of our operations Team Members who drove it to execution. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the great relationship Watco has with our Customer, CBH. And because of this Watco was able to break yet another record for moving grain to Port,” said Thompson. “Our focus is always to operate safely, but also continue to push ourselves to improve daily for the benefit of both companies over the long term.”