After nearly two years of planning, Watco Australia’s first GrainCorp train was put into service. The inaugural train, consisting of two locomotives and 42 wagons loaded with chickpeas, rolled out of Mt. McLaren on December 2, under the lead of Project Manager Max Johnson.

Two locomotives bring in 42 railcars, or wagons, to deliver chickpeas on GrainCorp’s inaugural operation.

“A special thanks to our crew operating the train, Willem Fouche, Richard Smith, Rod Beasley and Tony Kilroy,” said Watco Australia’s Chief Commercial Offier Ken Potts. “They deserve credit for ensuring that operations commenced smoothly for our first trip.”

Watco Australia’s Tony Kilroy (r) and Mick Morrow (l) ensured that operations went smoothly on the inaugural GrainCorp trip.

The train traveled from Mt. McLaren to the Port of Mackay where it was discharged on December 3.

Watco signed a 10-year rail haulage contract with GrainCorp in February 2018 with plans for commencement in December 2019. The time went quickly as Watco worked to acquire new rolling stock consisting of eight new National Rail and Equipment (NRE) locomotives and 128 railcars, or wagons as they are called in Australia. The locomotives were engineered and built at NRE’s facility in Mt Vernon, Illinois, to fit Queensland’s narrowgauge rail and weight limitations.

Chickpeas are loaded into the wagons at the GrainCorp location in Mt. McLaren.
The first train discharges at GrainCorp’s facility at the Port of Mackay in Queensland.

The wagons that were made for the service are bolted together from lightweight aluminium to get to axle loads permitted on Queensland’s rail lines. Each is watertight and carries 46.6 tonnes.

The new locomotives weren’t quite ready for service this run, but when they are, the train will be made up of two locomotives and up to 42 wagons, with both locomotives ‘talking’ to each other via an electronic Wired Distributive Power system to ensure they work together efficiently.

Rolling stock purchased for the GrainCorp operations consisted of 128 railcars, or wagons, of which 42 were used for the inaugural trip.

The locos come equipped with N’compass software, providing GPS tracking while monitoring the running performance of each loco.

A digital tracking system will give GrainCorp site and terminal staff visibility (or SMS notifications) of arrival times.

“Our team in the States, Ron Close and Keith Testerman, managed the delivery of the new locomotives to Brisbane, Australia, from NRE’s facility in Mt. Vernon and we appreciate all their efforts,” said Potts.

He added, “We’re excited with the startup of operations for newest Australia customer. GrainCorp has been an integral part of our planning process and should be one of our top five customers worldwide once fully operational.”