3,000 tonnes/day on 600mm gauge

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A Google Maps ‘slippy’ satellite view (can be scrolled and zoomed) of the Staßfurt Soda Works limestone quarry and n.g. railway.

No, not another mystery location in our competition, but the mine and loading chutes of the Staßfurt Soda Works GmbH & Co. KG in Saxony-Anhalt, one of Germany’s largest producers of sodium carbonate. The company obtains the limestone needed for the manufacturing process from an open cast mine about 3km from the production site.

The mine and production plant are linked by a unique 600mm gauge industrial railway. Each day the railway caries between 2,500 – 3,000 tonnes of limestone. Two trains operate on the single track line, each train, consisting of four 50-tonnes capacity bogie hopper wagons. Their 13 tonne axle weight necessitates the use of S49 rail, usually used on the standard gauge. The trains are hauled by LEW EL-12 electric locomotives.

A BTWT reader kindly sent us a link to a couple of YouTube videos of the railway in action. The first video shows an interesting series of shunting moves taking place when an empty train arrives at the loading plant. Here the engine is uncoupled from its train, and fly shunts its wagons back up the track from where the train came. Then the driver just nips his engine into the beginning of the run-round loop, switches the point and watches the wagons roll down towards the delivery chute by gravity. Now the engine rejoins its train at the right end for the run back to the processing plant. The cameraman was not quite sure whether this was an authorised manoeuvre and blacked out the driver’s face just in case!

The second video shows a loaded train proceeding to the processing plant and afterwards a second train having its wagons filled at the loading chutes. The process is interesting as it is entirely automatic, the train being positioned by means of a haulage cable.

The whole system – railway and loading arrangements – is delightfully simple and highly energy efficient. It is sad to reflect how many industrial railways could have survived in Poland if not for the punitive local tax rates on such lines.

Videos:

Photos:

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