Sishen–Saldanha railway line

Sishen–Saldanha railway line
Ore Export Line
Type Iron ore freight
Locale Western & Northern Cape, South Africa
Termini Sishen, Northern Cape
Saldanha, Western Cape
Opened 1976
Owner Transnet Freight Rail
Operator(s) Transnet Freight Rail
Line length 861 km (535 mi)
Track gauge 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) Cape gauge
Electrification 50 kV AC overhead catenary

The Sishen–Saldanha railway line, also known as the Ore Export Line, is an 861 kilometres (535 mi) long heavy haul railway line in South Africa.[1] It connects iron ore mines near Sishen in the Northern Cape with the port at Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape.[1] It is used primarily to transport iron ore and does not carry passenger traffic.

The Sishen–Saldanha line was built by Iscor, the then iron and steel parastatal, opening in 1976.[2] In 1977 the line was transferred to Transnet Freight Rail, then known as South African Railways & Harbours, and a decision was made to electrify the line.[2] A voltage of 50 kV AC was chosen instead of the usual 25 kV in order to haul heavier loads and to allow a larger distance between transformers.

A single set of tracks with ten crossing loops to allow trains travelling in opposite directions to pass was constructed; this has since been increased to 19 crossing loops to increase line capacity.[1]

From an altitude of 1,295 metres (4,249 ft) at Sishen, the line climbs for 42 kilometres (26 mi) before descending to cross the Orange River about 10 kilometres (6 mi) downstream of Groblershoop.[1] For the next 300 kilometres (190 mi), the line rises and falls before descending towards the Atlantic coast.[1] The railway crosses the Olifants River on a 1,035 metres (3,396 ft) viaduct between Vredendal and Lutzville[2] and reaches the coast about 160 kilometres (100 mi) north of Saldanha.[1] From here it follows a coastal route.

Initial train lengths consisted of 3x class 9E electric locomotives, hauling 210 type CR ore wagons with a payload of 80 tons.[2] Upgraded wagons now carry 100 tons.[1] Train lengths have been increased to 342 wagons, employing Radio Distributed Power (RDP) technology. These 4 km long trains (10 locomotives and 342 wagons), are the longest production trains in the world. More than 3,000 of these RDP trains have been operated since launched in December 2007.[citation needed]

An aerial view of an ore train on the Sishen–Saldanha line.
An aerial view of an ore train on the Sishen–Saldanha line

See also

  • South African Class 34-000
  • South African Class 34-400
  • South African Class 34-500
  • South African Class 34-900
  • South African Class 9E, Series 1
  • South African Class 9E, Series 2
  • South African Class 15E


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dickson, Rollo (3 June 2007). "Orex upgrade targets more capacity". Railway Gazette International. 
  2. ^ a b c d Boonzaaier, Boon (2008). Tracks Across the Veld. ISBN 9780620417112. 

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