I wrote a little article on some of the rather unusual traction and rolling stock that we have here at Tata Steel Scunthorpe when we transport molten metal by rail. Perhaps you'd like to take a look for general interest. Click on the link to take you to the original article which has some nice pictures in it. The text of the article is quoted below for info
Let me know what you think either here or in a comment at the bottom of the article.
I'm lucky enough to work both in the rail and the steel industry for Tata Steel and often it gives you an interesting perspective on many things. We do seem to get some of the biggest toys to play with in these industries.
This morning I dutifully stopped at one of the many road/rail crossings on our site at Scunthorpe to wait for a couple of our hot metal 'torpedoes' to trundle past. I see these on a daily basis ferrying molten 'hot-metal', (blast furnace iron) inside them from our blast furnaces to our steel making plant for further processing which I talked about in a previous article. I rarely give thought to the technology and challenges involved in this seemingly ordinary fetching and carrying task, but in the wait for them to pass I had enough time to realise the task is far from mundane. Transporting 300t of liquid iron from A to B has many interesting challenges.
First is the fact that some of the operating environments are hazardous particularly loading and unloading and so the locos that pull the torpedoes are able to be remotely driven to keep people out of harm's way. Seeing a train move off with the driver stood near it holding a remote control does take some getting used to.
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Second there is the sheer scale of the torpedo itself. Each one carries 300 tonnes of liquid hot metal inside it at nearly 1500°C meaning each torpedo weighs around 550 tonnes. These unique vehicles have 6 axles at each end to support the massive load, delivering axle loads of around 46 tonnes placing great demands on the rail and track, (In comparison normal freight vehicles in the UK have a 25 tonne maximum axle load).
As another aside this makes a great test track for evaluating our next generations of rail steels which is close to my heart. The first place our HP335 was evaluated was in this demanding route.
Third, the torpedo is not just a tank on wheels, the whole vessel is able to rotate to allow the liquid hot metal to be poured out at its destination. What goes in must come out!
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Usually 2 torpedoes are moved in tandem, 'top-and-tailed' by the remote controlled locomotives giving a 1,300t train weight for the 4 vehicles. These heavyweight haulage operations continue 24 hours a day 7 days a week and 365 days a year to keep up with the nations thirst for steel. Carrying around 3 million tonnes of hot-metal each year these load-lugging locos and the transporting torpedoes are one of the weird yet wonderful vehicles that keep both steel and rail production on-track here in Scunthorpe.