Below is a schematic representation of the Murtoa to Hopetoun railway line - which sees an almost daily return mineral sands train service between Hopetoun and Hamilton.
Hopetoun Current Terminus of Line
Iluka Mineral Sands Loading Facility
Goyura Unused Grain Siding
Roseberry Unused Grain Siding
Beulah GEB Siding Grain Siding
Beulah Unused Grain Siding
Galaquil Unused Grain Siding
Brim Grain Siding
Lah Grain Siding
Batchica Unused Grain Siding
Warrackside Grain Siding
Warracknabeal Unused Grain Siding
Sheep Hills Unused Grain Siding
Nullan Unused Grain Siding
Minyip Unused Grain Siding
Coromby Unused Grain Siding
Murtoa Junction of Line
Hopetoun to Hamilton Mineral Sands Trains
Trains have once again begun to move on the grain only branches in western Victoria after a couple of months of little action.
The Iluka mineral sands trains have continued to run between Hopetoun and Hamilton with a single BL class locomotive the most common motive power.
A grain train that ran to Hopetoun on Fri.7.Aug encountered some problems.
The train consisted of locomotives BL26-BL27 with 46 hoppers and the loading of the grain was not completed on Friday so the train was parked in the yard overnight.
On Saturday afternoon loading was completed and the train departed at 15:50. Our correspondent followed the train down the highway shortly afterwards and discovered that it had come to a standstill on the second rise on the track about 5 kilometres from Hopetoun. It is not known if the train stalled or if there was a problem with one of the locomotives.
After a long delay the train was eventually reversed back to the Hopetoun yard where it was stabled overnight after arriving at 18:00.
On the afternoon of Sun.9.8.2015 light locomotive G520 arrived in the yard and was attached to the BL locos and the train departed Hopetoun at 15:40. This was a very rare occurrence of a triple headed train on this branch.
Hopetoun Mineral Sands Trains
Locomotive BL31 assisting the loading of a mineral sands train at Hopetoun on Fri.27.3.2015.
Pacific National hauled trains continue to move mineral sands from Hopetoun to Hamilton for processing, with the BL, G and 81 classes having all had stints recently as the motive power.
In this photograph, loading is being undertaken on the morning of Fri.27.3.2015 at the Iluka siding at Hopetoun which is the stub of the former line extension north to Patchewollock. - Fri.24.4.2015
HOPETOUN - HAMILTON MINERAL SANDS
The mineral sands train from Hopetoun to Hamilton resumed running for the first time this year on Mon.2.2. The train was hauled by BL31 with a reduced loading of 12 hoppers and departed Hopetoun at 9:15am.
Iluka announced last year that operations at their mine near Ouyen are scheduled to cease during February 2015, but the development a new mine near Balranald in New South Wales will continue to provide mineral sands that will continue to be transported by road to the rail loading facility at Hopetoun and from there railed to the mineral separation plant at Hamilton.
BL31 continued to haul this train until around Wed.11.2 when it was reported as part of an up three loco combination heading towards Melbourne that morning, and G540 was sighted on the mineral sands train.
A short loaded mineral sands train negotiating the 's' curves on the down side of Batchica siding, north of Warracknabeal, on Thurs.5.2.2015
On Tues.17.2 the train was still being hauled by a solo G540 but the consist had been increased to 20 hoppers - Tues.17.2.2015
As of the 20th of January the Hopetoun to Hamilton mineral sands train has not resumed running since the Christmas/New Year break, although the Kalari trucks have commenced transporting product from the mine to the Hopetoun rail loading facility. The train last ran on Wednesday 24 Dec 2014.
A number of grain trains have also run on this line during December and January, and as expected, the motive power has come from the G and 81 classes.
The following are the locomotive combinations reported on grain trains at Hopetoun.- others have operated only as far as Warrackside and Beulah but their details have not been reported.
Thanks to our Hopetoun correspondent for this information.
2014 Victorian Budget - Up-grades to Two Western Lines
There has been much written and said since the details of the state budget have become known, with the most relevant announcement for rail in western Victoria being the allocation of funds to upgrade the Maryborough to Mildura and Murtoa to Hopetoun railway lines.
The first $41 million has been allocated to upgrading these lines to 21 tonne axle loads for an immediate increase the amount of freight carried on each train.
The remainder of the funding is for a business study that will determine the best way to go about standardising the Mildura line if it is found to be feasible.
The possible alternatives include standardising the current broad gauge route all the way from Geelong to Mildura through Ballarat and Maryborough, utilise the current link between Ararat and Dunolly and standardise north to Mildura or to create a new link between the existing western standard gauge system and the Mildura line either between Minyip and Litchfield or Hopetoun and Lascelles.
THE rail line from Hopetoun to Murtoa will be upgraded as part of a $220-million rail upgrade.
Read the full article from the Wimmera Mail-Timeshere
The Hopetoun to Hamilton mineral sands trains resumed in late May and as expected Pacific National took over as the new operator.
Locomotives G536 and G531 combined to haul the same rake of hoppers leased from CFCLA as the previous operator used when they departed Hopetoun with their first loaded train at 11 20 on the morning of Mon.27.5.2013.
Since then the service has been operating regularly with the only obvious change, apart from the motive power, being the regular trips to Melbourne every couple of weeks to service the locomotives and rolling stock instead of undertaking this in Portland as El Zorro did.
The first Pacific National hauled mineral sands train soon after departing Hopetoun.
Iluka announced on Thursday, again through an advisement in the Hopetoun Courier, that their Hopetoun to Hamilton mineral sands trains would be resuming as of Sun.26.5.2013 although they did not indicate which rail operator will be hauling the train. All of the current indicators are that it will be Pacific National with two G class locomotives. - Fri 24 May 2013
With Iluka announcing in early May (through an advertisement in the Hopetoun Courier on Thurs.2.5.2013) that the haulage of mineral sands by rail from Hopetoun to Hamilton has been temporarily suspended and the rumours of an impending change of operator, the last El Zorro hauled service may have run on Sat 20.4.2013.
Locomotive troubles during the preceding week had resulted in a number of different motive power combinations culminating in this unique grouping of S320-T333-TL152-1872 for the last two journeys to date.
The previous Sunday the train departed Hopetoun with T342-T333-S302 up front but was obviously having some problems as it took over an hour to make it to Beulah were it paused briefly for the drivers to inspect the locomotives. Eventually the train made it to Warracknabeal where it stabled for the night to await attention from mechanics the following day. This was the first time that it was stabled at this location with the previous few occasions when it remained on the branch overnight it was at the terminus of Hopetoun.
The train departed in the afternoon of Mon.15.4 but with only half of the hoppers, with the remaining ones being collected by the up service on the following Friday. The services on the Wednesday and the Thursday were both hauled by TL152 and T333 with the shortened rake of hoppers.
The rumours of this train’s future suggest that it will resume in late May or early June but with Pacific National taking over the hook and pull service. These rumours were supported by the report of two G class locomotives, G536 and G537, being transferred from PN Intermodal to PN Bulk in mid-May – Only time will tell.
Our photographer was able to snap this quick record shot just on sunset on that day as the loaded up train passed through Warracknabeal.
After a couple of weeks of back to back S class motive power, Sunday the 14th of April saw S312 replaced by two T class units. The train was sighted departing Hopetoun at 13 34 that afternoon for the trip back to Hamilton behind T342-T333-S302, but they soon encountered problems with one or more of the locomotives and the train limped into Warracknabeal late in the afternoon where it stabled for the night to await repairs.
The train was reported departing Warracknabeal in the early afternoon of the following day but was later reported to be labouring into Glenorchy just before dark with only half of the hoppers. - Mon 15 Apr 2013
Iluka did not operate trains from Hopetoun for a two week period from 9 March 2013. Nomineral sands were transported to Hamilton by road either.
The mineral separation plant at Hamilton had no storage capacity during that period as it is only operating every alternative month in 2013.
Trains recommenced 25 March 2013 and are operating on a daily basis.
After a two week break, the Hopetoun - Hamilton mineral sands trains resumed on Mon.25.3 with the double bulldog combination of S302 and S312.
Late running on Thurs.28.3 saw the train pass Stawell on the down around four hours later than scheduled and the return was through the same location at 21 42 which was still around 5 hours late.- Fri 29 Mar 2013
The double bulldog combinations that had exclusively run this service since mid January came to an end late in February when GM36 was replaced by 442s2. The current combination is S302 and 442s2 with the latter locomotive leading on the up (from Hopetoun to Hamilton) journey.- Thurs 7 Mar 2013
Since the recommencement of these trains for the year in mid January, they have been hauled exclusively by double 'bulldog' combinations of GM36 with either S302 or S312.
Whist they have ususally marshalled back to back, there was a week during January when they ran elephant style with S312 leading on the down journey. - Sun 10th Feb 2013
GM36 and S302 leading the Hopetoun to Hamilton mineral sands train on the afternoon of Mon.4.2.2013 soon after passing through Minyip, north of Murtoa on the Hopetoun branch. - Sun 10 Feb 2013
These services resumed after a two week break over the new year period on Thurs.17.1.2013 with GM36 and S302 hauling a rake of 30 hoppers. - Mon 21st Jan 2013
The Hopetoun - Hamilton mineral sands trains are having a break for the first two weeks of January, but they are expected to recommence in the middle of the month.
The new motive power for this service is now not expected to take over until at least March. There is still no official word as to what this new power will be. - Wed 9th Jan 2013
As predicted by some, locomotive 1872 only spent a couple of days on the Hopetoun-Hamilton mineral sands trains before it was replaced, althuogh it is not known if it was removed due to failure.
Towards the end of the month the regular motive power combination of S302 and T386 had been replaces by S312-T333-442s2.
The current operating pattern is for the train to arrive at Hopetoun around dawn and to depart in the late morning, although on occasions it has been running a couple of hours late, which provides for a daylight trip north of Murtoa. - Mon 3 Dec 2012
Two trains at Hopetoun (Vic). A late running El Zorro mineral sands train hauled by 442s2-T386-S302 has just arrived to hare the yard with Pacific National's XR559 and XR555 on a grain train at midday on Wed.14.11.2012.
Locomotive 442s2 spent most of the second week of November on this train before it was replaced by 1872 for the down journey on Sat.17.11. - Sun 18 Nov 2012
For the last three weeks of October and into the first week of November the Mineral Sands trains were hauled by S302 and T386 north of Glenorchy and were assisted between Hamilton and Glenorchy by another unit, usually L277. There were reports early in October of C501 assisting as far as Murtoa.
Motive power during September and early October consisted mostly of three locomotives, with S302 and T386 with GM36 for most of September and TL155 during the first week of October
Locomotive 1872 also made a couple of trips in early October as the third unit. - Wed 7 Nov 2012
The Hopetoun to Hamilton mineral sands train hauled by S302-GM36-T386 photographed between Minyip and Coromby on the afternoon of Mon.17.Sept.2012. - Mon 17 Sept 2012
Another interesting motive power combination was reported, but unfortunately not photographed, on the Hopetoun-Hamilton mineral sands service on Wednesday the 22nd of August when the combination of T386-L277-T387 was sighted. It is unlikely (but yet to be confirmed) that L was used on the branch, as it is our understanding that this class is still not authorized for this line. - Thurs 23 Aug 2012
Following the failure of S312, part of the regular motive power for the Hopetoun-Hamilton mineral sands trains, a couple of new locomotive combinations were sighted during the thirds week in April. A lone G532 (SCT) fronted the first two services for the week but was then replaced by T385 (CFCLA), T333 (VR) and S302 (El Zorro) from Wed.18.4. - Thurs 19 Apr 2012
The first train to Hopetoun after Easter saw the unusual appearance of three locomotives - S312 (Rail Power) and T386 (Modified V/Line) were joined by T333 (VR) for this one trip. The next day the motive power returned to the more usual S312 and T385 (CFCLA). - Wed 11 Apr 2012
Mineral Sands Train crosses a Grain Train at Warracknabeal
The afternoon of Wednesday the 21st of March saw the relatively unusual occurance of a cross at Warracknabeal, on the Murtoa to Hopetoun branch, between the down El Zorro mineral sands train to Hopetoun and an up loaded Pacific National grain train from Beulah.
Whilst it has been many years since more than one train regularly ran on this branch at any one time, this was the third time that this cross had occurred this week. - Wed 21 Mar 2012
S312 and T385 pulling into the loop at Warracknabeal to cross XR559 and XR555 on an up loaded grain service from Beulah.
The second week in March saw T385 in CFCLA colours joined S312 in RailPower colours on the Hopetoun-Hamilton Mineral sands trains. - Thurs 15 Mar 2012
The motive power on these services has continued to be dominated by S302 and S312, although during the first week in March, 442s2 was reported. Unfortunatley our photographer was not able to get any pictures to confirm what other locos were with the 442 class. - Sun 11 Mar 2012
The Hopetoun to Hamilton mineral sands trains have been running irregulary since the first train ran for the year in late January. Since then the motive power has continued to be double headed S classes in the form of S302 and S312. - Sun 19 Feb 2012
First Mineral Sands Train for 2012
The first Hopetoun to Hamilton mineral sands train operated on Mon.23.1.2012, with the empty down train arriving into Hopetoun at 16 45 as S302 and S312 hauling 13 sets of two permenantly coupled hoppers, for 26 individual hoppers.
Upon arrival, four of the hoppers pairs were shunted into number two road and the locos then ran around the train and propelled the remaining nine wagons back into the Iluka loading site, and by 17 30 the loading had begun with two large front end loaders.
S302 and S312 leading the first down empty mineral sands train to Hopetoun on the afternoon of Monday the 23rd of Januray, photographed at Gulaquill just south of Beulah.
Iluka trials mineral sands trains
Iluka Resources says it expects trains, between its mine in the Mallee and a processing plant at Hamilton, will begin running on a permanent basis early next year...ABC Online - Wed.30.11.2011
Mineral sands journey on track
A project has started using trains to move mineral sands concentrate from a mine in the Mallee to a processing plant at Hamilton...ABC Online - Mon.21.11.2011
First Mineral Sands Train to Hopetoun - Friday 18th November 2011
A mineral sands train consisting of locomotives T386 and S300 and six pairs of wagons (made up of three pairs of CHEY and three of CHBY wagons for a total of twelve hoppers) was stabled in the yard at Hopetoun on the morning of Fri.18.Nov, having travelled up from Portland the evening before.
Around midday the locos were run around the train and the T was used to propel the hoppers back into the Iluka siding whilst the S was left idling at the up end of the siding.
The new siding is a 700 metre dead end siding located on the alignment of the former Patchewollock line north of Austin Street, and the loading facility itself consists of a large two bay shed which is open the the rail siding where a front end loader is used to load the hoppers. - Fri.18.11
T386 and S300 with a rake of hoppers stabled in the silo road at Hopetoun on the morning of Fri.18.Nov.
T386 propelling the train into the Iluka siding ready for loading.
A front end loader being used to load the first hopper.
Mineral Sands Test Train Derails South of Warracknabeal
Freight train on mining test run derails near Warracknabeal - A LOCOMOTIVE hauling five wagons derailed six kilometres south of Warracknabeal on Sunday night.... - Wimmera Mail-Times Online - Wed.8.6.2011
This train was a test train operated by El Zorro in preparation for the commencement of mineral sands haulage from Hopetoun to Hamilton later this year.
The train consisted of four hopper wagons and one empty container flat on hire from CFCLA and was hauled by El Zorro's T386. Upon being rerailed on Tues.7.6 the train continued the six kilometres to Warracknabeal before returning south - if did not make it all of the way to Hopetoun on this occasion. Another test train will be scheduled in the next week or so after the line has been fully repaired. - Wed.8.6.2011
Blast from the Past
'Shifting Sands' - Hopetoun Courier - 27th November 2003
In late 2003 a test train ran from Hopetoun to Portland as a trial for the transportation of Mineral Sands.