BHP Whyalla Tramway

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BHP Whyalla Tramway
OwnerLiberty House Group
LocaleEyre Peninsula
TerminiWhyalla Steelworks
Iron Knob
Iron Baron
Operator(s)One Rail Australia
Track gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Route map

Iron Duke
Iron Duke
Iron Baron
Iron Knob
Whyalla Inner Harbour
Whyalla Narrow Gauge Terminal

The BHP Whyalla Tramway is a 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge railway located on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. Running from the Whyalla Steelworks to Iron Knob and Iron Duke, it was built and operated by BHP[2] and is now owned by Liberty House Group and operated on its behalf by One Rail Australia.[citation needed]


In 1899 BHP was granted a lease to mine iron ore from the Middleback Ranges.[3] The Hummock Hill to Iron Knob Tramways and Jetties Act 1900 authorised BHP to build a 54 kilometre line from Hummock Hill, Whyalla to Iron Knob that opened on 28 August 1901.[4][5]

In 1930 a branch opened from Middleton Junction to Iron Baron. The latter closed in 1947 being reopened in 1958.[6][7] In 1990 it was extended 32 kilometres from Iron Baron to Iron Duke.[8][9] After iron ore production ceased at Iron Baron in 1991 and Iron Duke in 1998, the line from Middleton Junction closed. With the reopening of the Iron Baron Mine, in mid-2012 the line reopened to Iron Baron.[10][11]

In the 1960s the internal Whyalla Steelworks network was converted to standard gauge to allow large 200 ton capacity torpedo ladles to be used.[12][13] It also allowed standard gauge trains from interstate to access the steelworks when the Whyalla railway line opened in October 1972.[14]

In 2000 operations were contracted out to Australian Southern Railroad (ASR), with locomotive maintenance taken over by Clyde Engineering and track maintenance by Transfield.[15][16][17] Since 2020 ASR's successor company as operator of the Tramway is known as One Rail Australia.

Rolling stock[edit]

Many of the steam locomotives used on the tramway were transferred from BHP's Broken Hill operations. By 1941 the fleet comprised 12 locomotives.[18]

A petrol-electric locomotive was purchased from the Davenport Locomotive Works, Iowa in 1928 for use at Iron Knob.[5]

DH and DE class diesel locomotives replaced the steam locomotives in the 1950s.[5][19] With the reopening of the line to Iron Baron, five GWNs were delivered in 2013.[20] In July 2019 five former Queensland Railways 2250 class locomotives were repatriated from South Africa to replace the GWNs.[21]


  1. ^ Whyalla - Iron Duke/IronKnob SA Track & Signal
  2. ^ Whyalla - Iron Duke/IronKnob SA Track & Signal
  3. ^ The 1978 Scene at BHP Whyalla Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin issue 494 December 1978 pages 266-277
  4. ^ Railed Transport in the Broken Hill District Australian Railway Society Railway Bulletin issue 295 May 1962 pages 71/72
  5. ^ a b c Griffiths, David (1985). BHP Tramways Centenary History. Cowandilla: Mile End Railway Museum. ISBN 0959507345.
  6. ^ BHP Re-opens Workings at Iron Baron Railway Transportation February 1958 page 24
  7. ^ Iron Baron Sydney Morning Herald 8 February 2004
  8. ^ BHP Tramway The Recorder April 1989 page 102
  9. ^ In Brief Railway Gazette International June 1989 page 367
  10. ^ Mining boost as Iron Baron reopens ABC News 15 May 2012
  11. ^ Whyalla Iron Ore Tramway Changes Motive Power issue 87 May 2013 pages 54-63
  12. ^ Whyalla Steelworks Gauge Standardisation Project Railway Transportation September 1963 pages 26, 27, 35
  13. ^ Conversion of steelworks railway to standard gauge Railway Gazette 20 December 1963 page 681
  14. ^ Bayley, William (1973). Steel Wheels on Railway to Whyalla. Bulli: Austrail Publications. ISBN 0 909597 12 X.
  15. ^ ASR Takes Control at Whyalla Catch Point issue 136 March 2000 page 21
  16. ^ ASR Takes Over BHP Whyalla Steel Lines Railway Digest January 2000 page 13
  17. ^ Intelligence Railway Gazette International January 2000 page 12
  18. ^ BHP Purchases Locomotives For Whyalla Plant Truck & Bus Transportation July 1941 page 49
  19. ^ BHP Orders Diesels for Iron Knob Line Railway Transportation November 1955 page 40
  20. ^ The GWN Class Motive Power issue 87 May 2013 pages 64/65
  21. ^ Old for New for Whyalla Catch Point issue 253 September 2019 page 10