Port and Rail Infrastructure

Fortescue purpose-designed and constructed rail and port facilities to support the development and sale of the Pilbara's stranded iron ore bodies. Construction of Herb Elliott Port and Rail infrastructure was completed in record time. Significant expansion has been undertaken to support the increased tonnes from the mines.


Fortescue’s railway was the first large-scale railway development undertaken in the Pilbara in more than 40 years. The company’s rail infrastructure consists of 620 kilometres of track. Its rail network is the fastest and heaviest haul line in the world with a 40 tonne axle load capacity.

Fortescue operates up to 14 trains a day, each carrying 32,880 tonnes of iron ore. Its rail fleet compromises 45 locomotives, 3,244 ore wagons, 30 fuel tanker wagons, 37 ballast wagons, 10 side dump cars, 19 rail carrying cars and eight compressor cars.

Located 15km inland from Port Hedland are the Thomas Yard and Kanyirri Yard service hubs for Fortescue’s rail operations. Named after former Port and Rail Expansion Project Director Peter Thomas, Thomas Yard houses Fortescue’s rail support centre and rail maintenance including locomotive and ore car maintenance workshops.

Completed in May 2013, the new ore car maintenance workshop incorporates some of the world’s most advanced engineering and automotive technology in heavy haul maintenance.

Kanyirri Yard recognises the local Aboriginal name for the area and contains a locomotive provisioning facility, as well as a fuel storage facility capable of storing six million litres of diesel.

Fortescue’s Train Control Centre is located in Perth and is in the process of introducing an Integrated Train Control System where trains are tracked by GPS and operating instructions are delivered direct to the train via digital communications providing greater utilisation efficiency and improved safety controls.

Key dates

  • 2006, November Special Rail Licence (SRL) granted which allowed construction to commence
  • 2007, February Official launch of track laying between Cloudbreak and Port Hedland
  • 2008, April — First iron ore on train to Herb Elliott Port
  • 2009, May — Fortescue Rail makes the 1000th train journey from Cloudbreak to Herb Elliott Port
  • 2011, December — Fortescue moves to AC traction locomotives by taking delivery of 9 rebuilt SD90 locomotives from the United States
  • 2012, June — Fortescue commences hauling iron ore at a rate of 72 million tonnes per annum
  • 2012, July — Fortescue takes delivery of the first of its order for 21 SD70 locomotives from the United States
  • 2012, November — Fortescue opens the Great Northern Highway overpass
  • 2012, December — Solomon Railway opens and first commissioning train leaves Solomon mine site
  • 2013, January — Kanyirri Yard housing Fortescue’s rail operations and a new locomotive provisioning shed and fuel facility opens
  • 2013, May — Construction of the ore car maintenance workshop at Thomas Yard is completed
  • 2013, September —State-of-the-art ore car maintenance facility opened utilising robotics and automation to service Fortescue’s ore cars and ancillary fleet
  • 2013, November - Rake 12 fully operational
  • 2013, December – Rake 3 fully operational

Herb Elliott Port

Fortescue has constructed world-class facilities at its Herb Elliott Port in Port Hedland on two million square metres of reclaimed land. Herb Elliott Port comprises three inload and three outload circuits. The inload circuits unload the ore from the trains and stack it onto blended stockpiles. The outload circuits reclaim the iron ore from the stockpiles and verify the quality via two robotic sample
plants before loading the ore onto ships. Fortescue’s shiploaders are the only permanently manned infrastructure on the site to ensure the cargo is safely distributed according to a ship’s loading plan.

A US$2.4 billion expansion of Fortescue’s port facilities, a core component of Fortescue’s $US9.2 billion expansion, to lift the Port’s export capacity to 155mtpa was completed in July 2013. The port expansion included the construction of two new berths, a second and third outloading and inloading circuit, two shiploaders, two reclaimers, one stacker, two train unloaders, 15.5 kilometres of conveyor systems, transfer stations, drive stations, two sample stations, power and control systems and associated infrastructure. The fourth berth has been named the Nick Sexton Berth after a much loved member of the Fortescue family who passed away in early 2013. Construction of a fifth berth at Herb Elliott Port is underway and is expected to be completed in early 2015.
Key dates
  • 2006, November — Construction starts at the Herb Elliott Port site.
  • 2008, April — First train of iron ore from Cloudbreak is unloaded and stockpiled at Herb Elliott Port.
  • 2008, May — Fortescue’s first shipment of iron ore loaded onto the Heng Shan [Chinese for ‘Everlasting mountain’].
  • 2012, February — The third berth and a second outloading circuit open, taking Fortescue’s outload capacity to more than 100mtpa.
  • 2012, September — The second train unloader is commissioned, increasing Fortescue’s inload capacity to 120mtpa.
  • 2012, November — The third train unloader is commissioned, increasing Fortescue’s inload capacity to 155mtpa. Fortescue breaks the record for the largest single iron ore shipment to leave Port Hedland with 254,010 tonnes on Abigail N.
  • 2012, December — Fortescue loads its 200 millionth tonne of iron ore from Herb Elliott Port.
  • 2013, April — The third reclaimer and yard conveyor are commissioned maximising the flexibility of the port’s outload operations. Fortescue breaks the record for the largest single iron ore shipment to leave Port Hedland set in November 2012 by 1,802 tonnes, with 255,816 tonnes shipped on PSU Seventh.
  • 2013, August – Officially opening of the fourth berth at Herb Elliott Port marks completion of US$2.4 billion expansion.