big aussie beasts of the outback
Australia love its BIG THINGS – there are hundreds of big objects all around the country from the Big Koala to the Big Banana. Plus there are the biggest and heaviest trains in the world – iron ore trains in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region and rugged road trains, as Intrepid leader John Kirk explains…
“If you travel along Australia’s remote outback roads, you will most likely encounter a road train, road-legal behemoths that truck heavy loads around the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and northern South Australia. Road trains in the mining industry max out at a staggering 200 tonnes, but most consist of a prime-mover and 3 trailers (called ‘doggies’) with a combined weight of up to 140 tonnes and around 54 metres (177 feet) in length. That’s almost 10 average car lengths and with more than 60 wheels, these giants are a tyre-kicker’s paradise!
The first road train was built in 1934 and carried cattle in the Northern Territory. The locals nicknamed it a ‘road train’ because it resembled a railway locomotive hauling cattle wagons. Road trains came into their own after World War II when the demand for Australia’s beef grew rapidly and the lack of rail lines in remote areas caused delays in getting cattle to markets. Road trains today comprise 2-3 trailers each with 2 decks (upper and lower) and carry around 40 head of cattle per trailer. They also transport fuel, mineral ores and general freight.
Meeting one of these road giants for the first time can be unnerving. They often drive at up to 100 kph (62 mph) and you need more than a kilometre of clear road ahead for safe overtaking. Many road train drivers help by blinking their right-turn indicators a couple of times to signal that there are no oncoming vehicles. When the opportunity arises, make the decision confidently then overtake quickly and safely, because we want you to live to discover the beautiful Australian beaches as well!”