CBH Group has seized an opportunity to add to its grain train fleet with the voluntary winding up of Aurizon Holding’s WA intermodal business.
It has purchased 10 second-hand DBZ diesel-electric locomotives from Aurizon to add to its existing fleet of 25 locos and 574 purpose-built grain wagons.
The price it paid for the 37 and 36-year-old locos, which vary in condition, has not been disclosed.
But discussion on the Railpage Australia website, run by train enthusiasts and former rail employees, after the locos were first mooted for sale early last year, put their estimated value at between $35,000 and $45,000 each as scrap metal.
CBH’s trains shifted 8.7 million tonnes of grain – 60 per cent of harvest – to port last financial year, according to its latest annual report.
The fleet additions it has just purchased previously hauled grain under the Australian Railroad Group (ARG) yellow and red livery prior to CBH investing $175 million to buy its own locos and rolling stock.
It began railing grain to Kwinana, Geraldton, Albany and Esperance ports with its own trains in 2012 in a bid to establish the cause of and to cap regular increases in contracted rail freight costs.
ARG was then part of QR National, the former Queensland government railways which was floated as a public company in 2010 and rebranded as Aurizon in 2012.
It was replaced by Watco Australia as CBH’s rail fleet operator.
Watco has achieved some WA milestones with CBH, including longest grain train and most grain shifted on rail for a harvest.
In May, it will have notched up six years of a 10-year contract to operate and maintain CBH’s train fleet.
The DBZ locos were recently moved from various locations in the State’s freight rail network to the Avon siding, near Northam, where they are being assessed by engineers for Watco.
A CBH spokesperson said it expects four or five of the locos, named after mostly southern WA shires and one named City of Bunbury, will return to service on Tier 2 grain lines within a few weeks.
The remainder will be cannibalised for parts to keep the operational locomotives on the rails.
Entering service between April 1982 and May 1983, the locos were refurbished and progressively upgraded between 2006 and 2012 with modern drive control systems to