Sishen–Saldanha railway line

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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
Depot(s) Salkor Yard
Line length 861 km (535 mi)
Track gauge 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Electrification 50 kV AC overhead catenary
Operating speed 80 km/h
Route map
861km Sishen
(Left arrow Hotazel – Postmasburg Right arrow)
792km Vrolik Loop 18
741km Witpan Loop 17
699km Rooilyf Loop 16
Orange River
(Left arrow Upington – Prieska Right arrow)
659km Oorkruis Loop 15
614km Rugseer Loop 14
576km Kenhardt Loop 13
532km Kolke Loop 12
484km Dagab Loop 11
446km Halfweg Loop 10
409km Commissioner's Pan Loop 9
372km Sous Loop 8
337km De Kop Loop 7
274km Kanakies Loop 6
Northern Cape-Western Cape border
227km Saggiesberg Loop 5
184km Knersvlak Loop 4
(Left arrow Bitterfontein – Cape Town Right arrow)
Olifants River
142km Bamboesbaai Loop 3
92km Kreefbaai Loop 2
Bobbejaansberg Tunnel
41km Dwarskersbos Loop 1
Berg River
(Left arrow Saldanha – Cape Town Right arrow)
0km Salkor
Port of Saldanha

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.

A video of the end part of the 342 wagon 3,780 meter long Sishen–Saldanha iron-ore train on its way to Saldanha in the Western Cape, South Africa.

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-track line with ten crossing loops to allow trains travelling in opposite directions to pass was constructed; number of crossing loops has since increased to 19 in order 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 there the line follows a coastal route.

Note the very long 50kV insulators on the catenary masts
Example of a locomotive
Inside the cab of a locomotive

Initial train lengths consisted of three 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 trains have 8 locomotives, a mix of electric and diesel-electric, and 342 wagons with a total mass of 41,400 tonnes and are 3,780 metres (12,400 ft) long, and they 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[edit]


  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 978-0-620-41711-2.