Rail solutions for short hauls are not common on southern African mines, but with the technology available locally and the significantly larger tonnages that can be moved quickly, efficiently and safely, there are good reasons to consider rail as part of a mine’s internal hauling infrastructure.

The RS7S3C diesel electric DC locomotive, known as the Genset Locomotive, was developed by Grindrod Locomotives to provide customers with a cost effective solution for their shunting and short-haul operations. The Genset Locomotive is manufactured standard with a 700HP C18 Cat engine and an in-house digital control system designed for affordability, low running costs and cleaner emissions.

Robert Spoon, CEO at Grindrod Locomotives says the Genset Locomotive is unparalleled in the market as it offers fit-for-purpose tractive effort in shunting and short haul rail operations.

Grindrod Locomotives, based in Pretoria, provides rail engineering solutions to clients across the African continent. This includes the design, engineering and manufacture of locomotives and wagons to meet specific client requirements, as well as locomotive leasing, rolling stock refurbishment and locomotive and wagon maintenance.

Bulk handling

Clients vary from mainline rail operators requiring long haul locomotives to large and medium-sized mining operations with a need for short haul, branch line or shunting locomotives. The Genset Locomotive was specifically designed to meet the need to move bulk commodities within large mining and industrial operations for the latter.

 “These units can be used to move thousands of tons simultaneously in the mining, heavy industry and manufacturing sectors – in short any business requiring large material handling facilities over short distances,” says Spoon. “We are convinced that this product will excel in the niche for which it was developed.”

A two axle option, the RS7S2C, also powered by the Cat C18 engine, is also available for applications where load tonnages are lower or for smaller more frequent hauls.

“Several of these new locomotives are already operating successfully for a variety of end users, including Grindrod Operations, which performs short-haul and shunting services and transports approximately 2 million tons per month of various bulk commodities from railway sidings and branch lines on behalf of major blue-chip mining companies and other bulk customers requiring specialised rail-related services,” Spoon adds.

Grindrod’s footprint extends into several African countries including the Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The company’s selection of a customised Cat C18 engine as standard in the Genset Locomotive was based not only on the proven Caterpillar technology but also on the ability of Barloworld Power, the southern African dealer for Cat power systems, to support it.

A joint solution

Barloworld Power’s relationship with Grindrod Locomotives began some three years ago when two stationery Cat generator sets were ordered from Barloworld as part of a pilot project to drive a 60 ton shunting locomotive.

A joint initiative between Grindrod, Barloworld Power and Caterpillar led to a subsequent decision to change to the head end power (HEP) engine that was ultimately better suited to this application.

“The Cat C18 HEP engine is designed to power the locomotive completely and no additional generator sets are required, thus saving space and cost,” explains Venash Raghunanan, industrial sales manager at Barloworld Power in Boksburg.

“The Cat C18 is a six cylinder inline engine delivering 525KW (703HP) at 1500RPM.  For many years Caterpillar has been designing rail powering engines which have proved successful in a wide variety of conditions and applications around the world.”

He points out that Cat engines traditionally perform well in this type of rugged, continuous operation.

The collaborative project to find the perfect power solution resulted in some minor changes to the Cat C18 to suit Grindrod’s needs and the company placed an order for six engines with Barloworld Power in March this year. All models of Grindrod’s Genset Locomotive will be offered standard with the Cat engine supplied by Barloworld Power in the future.

Raghunanan adds that while Barloworld Power works with other OEMs in the rail sector, powering up new locomotives and providing replacement engines, the collaboration with Grindrod has provided an excellent opportunity to showcase the capabilities of this purpose-designed and built Cat engine.

“We look forward to partnering with Grindrod and its customers in ensuring that the locomotives have long and productive lives. Our parts availability, condition monitoring and fluid analysis services, engine rebuild capabilities and strong after sales team throughout southern Africa will be critical to providing after sales support wherever it is needed.”

“We believe the opportunities for movement of commodities by rail, both within mining operations and to ports and beneficiation plants, will form a significant and exciting part of Barloworld Power’s future together with Caterpillar in southern Africa.”