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Past Conferences

2017 - Cape Town, South Africa "Advancing Heavy Haul Technologies and Operations in a Changing World"

The 11th International Heavy Haul Association Conference 2017 ran over three days from Monday 04 to Wednesday 06 September 2017.

The Programme included a two-day pre-conference Technical Workshop starting on 02 September 2017, Plenary sessions and Parallel Sessions, an exciting selection of networking social events and a post conference Technical Tour.

Under the theme “Advancing Heavy Haul Technologies and Operations in a Changing World” the Programme included presentation of technical papers in research and improvement areas such as Rolling Stock, Railway Infrastructure and Operations.


2015 - Perth, Western Australia “Operational Excellence“

The conference was held on 21 – 24 June 2015. The theme of the 2015 conference was Operational Excellence, and focused on the exchange of information to benefit the world’s heavy haul operations with emphasis on technical advancement, innovation, development, management and maintenance of operations.


2013 - New Delhi, India "Capacity Building through Heavy Haul Operation"

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The IHHA 10th International Conference in New Delhi, India on February 4 - 6, 2013 was an outstanding success. The conference was attended by 676 delegates from 21 countries. It had large participation not only from delegates from Indian Railways and Industry but also delegates from 20 other countries with the largest contingent of 61 delegates from China and 303 in all. There were a total of 127 technical presentations made in 4 parallel technical sessions, 32 in all, held for 3 days. Technical sessions were supplemented with a poster session and heavy haul trade exhibition presenting technology display booths from the supply and services community from around the world. Technical and Cultural tours were held following the conference. Central theme of the conference was "Capacity Building through Heavy Haul Operation".


2011 - Calgary, Alberta, Canada "Excellence in Heavy Haul Railroading"

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Michael Roney      IHHA Director for Canada and Conference Co-chair

The 2011 IHHA specialist technical session (STS) was held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on the theme of Railroading in Extreme Conditions.  The conference was oversubscribed for an STS, with 604 delegates from 27 different countries, who chose from 4 parallel streams totaling 110 oral presentations of papers and 52 posters.  A trade exhibition running in parallel to the conference had booths from 42 different exhibitors from the supply and services community around the world.   Delegates had the opportunity to visit the host Canadian Pacific’s yard and  intermodal facilities and the Network Management Centre and to travel through mountain railroading territory to British Columbia aboard a vintage steam train.

The conference plenary session gave an update on heavy haul technologies and growth prospects from 5 different countries:  Canada, China, Australia, Russia and South Africa, under the general theme of business success under all operating conditions.   The technical content of the conference expanded the general theme of extreme railroading, to the sub-themes of:

  • Service reliability
  • Running to schedule
  • Running longer and heavier
  • Technologies that build capacity
  • Cold weather operation
  • Conserving fuel

The following summarizes at a very broad level the consensus and general learnings that came out of each of these sub-themes.

Service Reliability

Railways that have modernized and standardized motive power are seeing higher levels of service reliability.  Reliability is well served by having networks of wayside detectors that flag issues on a proactive basis and trend the information both between detectors and on a time-series progression.    Micro-alloyed wheels and rails have become the norm for heavy haul railroading, and frequent, preventive rail grinding, maintaining conformal wheel/rail conditions has emerged as the common best practice.  New studies have highlighted the role of superelevation in balancing lateral forces for long trains, with running at 10% underbalanced elevation emerging as good practice.  Similarly, use of phased-array ultrasonic testing is showing strong benefits for testing of rails, wheels, trucks and draft gear.  Rail welding continues to be a weak link in winter service reliability, but post weld heat treatment, improved weld collars and closer attention to shearing of the weld show promise.   Another weak link is susceptibility to problem subgrades, embankments and rockfall locations.  Solutions exist, mostly costly, but permanent solutions are seen as worth the effort on a high tonnage line where service reliability is critical.

Running to Schedule

The use of hot and cold wheel detectors to diagnose braking performance was demonstrated to be capable of eliminating the need for intermediate manual braking tests.  Automated brake shoe measurement and management systems were shown to be ready for more widespread implementation.  ECP braking was debated as capable of more reliable schedule performance, with attendant fuel savings and the possibility of tighter headways.  Driver assistance to maintain targeted arrivals at intermediate locations and meets was shown to improve line fluidity.   Participants were cautioned to maintain train densities at less than 80% of line capacity to sustain train schedules and avoid meltdown under weather contingencies or outages.

Running Longer, Heavier Trains  

Use of distributed motive power with units in multiple locations within the train has become the gold standard for running longer trains that are more productive and less destructive.  New train marshaling software drives train makeup to control in-train forces and avoid marshaling violations.  Work in USA and China is showing that there is the potential to incorporate new designs of couplers and higher strength componentry to support longer trains.  Good economics results from deliberate attempts to use matched set cars coupled with slackless drawbars and to otherwise optimize the load carried per unit of train length, particularly where there are constraints on extending passing sidings. Car designs that improve weight to tare ratios were suggested before increasing axle load, as there are additional fuel benefits and less potential impact on infrastructure.  The weak points in further increasing axle load were seen to be rail weld quality, bridges and weak embankment locations that make heavier axle loads more feasible for new construction and desert environments.  Captive services with axle loads up to 40t were demonstrated to be feasible when the infrastructure is designed to match the load. 

Building Capacity

PTC applied as a standalone, rather than an overlay on existing train control system,s would have capacity and headway benefits and is a good fit with ECP-equipped trains.  There is a potential to improve braking system performance with new truck-mounted designs.  Trains that are modular in design, where each rake has its own power and is coupled together as feeder trains, and combined in transit, were common for very high tonnage lines.  Lean management principles can be applied to the flow of traffic, where trains are originated and lined up when the whole chain is seen to be ready to handle the trip and the train can “direct hit” with the ship at the port.   Homogeneous train consist designs with consistent HP/ton ratios that reduce the bandwidth of speed variation unlock additional capacity.   “Lowering the stress state” is a good philosophy for reducing variation in arrival times and freeing-up train slots, with distributed power and friction management.  Lower maintenance track components such as trackwork with an unbroken running rail and premium designs, and abrasion-resistant concrete sleepers have the potential of reducing maintenance windows.    

Operating in Extreme Cold

Harder, stronger wheels are now available that are less susceptible to cold weather. Rail metallurgies need to pay attention to ductility, fracture toughness and elongation specifications.  Rail neutral temperature needs to be managed to control areas with higher rail failure histories.  Improved braking systems diagnostics can result in lower thermal wheel stresses.  Cold weather rail failure histories and wheel impact readings can be mined to direct trains to run at calculated low risk train speeds as temperatures drop.  Car designs need to pay attention to avoiding trapping water and having component shapes that cause ice buildup.   Cold weather ergonomics need to be considered to ensure operating levers can be managed with thick gloves.   

Conserving Fuel

Fuel consumption is controlled with driver assistance that reduces speed changes and minimizes time spent in the highest notch positions.  Aerodynamic considerations in car design include orthodrome sheathing, reducing gap length between cars, and applying aerodynamic rules engines in guiding the makeup of intermodal trains.  Rail friction should be maintained at µ < 0.4.  Good application of distributed power also has fuel benefits, as do strategies to power down units when not specifically required to do the work.  

2009 - China 9th International Heavy Haul Conference  "Heavy Haul and Innovation Developments"

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In 2009, the Ministry of the Railway of the People's Republic of China hosted the Ninth International Heavy Haul Association Conference.  The conference was held in Shanghai, China from June 22-25 of the same year. The conference focused on "Heavy Haul and Innovation Development," and carried out subject discussions on heavy haul transport and economy development, heavy haul locomotive technology, heavy haul vehicle technology, heavy haul train control and communication technology, heavy haul transport organization and management technology, heavy haul cab signaling technology, electrification technology for heavy haul lines, enviornmental protection of heavy haul, heavy haul train simulating calculation and testing, maintenance and engineering technology for heavy haul track. The conference reflected the latest development of international heavy haul technology and is marked as an important achievement of this event.


2007 - Kiruna, Sweden "High Tech in Heavy Haul"

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(May take several minutes to download.)


The 2007 Special Technical Session with the theme “High Tech in Heavy Haul” is proud to present this book with the conference proceedings. We, the Nordic Heavy Haul Group, has been chosen to host this conference by the board of International Heavy Haul Association (IHHA). We have been working hard to meet the challenge and the goal of IHHA, which is to pursuit the excellence in heavy haul railway operations, engineering, maintenance, and technology. If we meet our objectives is up to you to judge


2005 - Brazil 8th International Conference  "Heavy Haul: Safety, Environment, and Productivity"

The 8th International Heavy Haul Conference was held in Brazil in 2005 on June 14th, 15th,and 16th and was hosted by the Companhia Vale Do Rio Doce (CVRD). This was the first IHHA conference held in South America. The heavy haul rail operations in South America have been growing significantly in recent years and this conference was of interest to those involved in the heavy haul industry.

May 2003-Ft. Worth, Texas - " Enhancing System Reliability"

This was a Specialist Technical Session (STS). The focus of the meetings was on " Enhancing System Reliability" and " Network Capacity for Heavy Haul". The host IHHA member will be the Transportation Technology Center(AAR) and the BNSF will be the co-host railroad.

2001 Conference   “Confronting the barriers of Heavy Haul Technology”
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The 2001 Conference, Confronting the Barriers of Heavy Haul Technology was held in Brisbane, Australia on June 10 through 14th, 2001 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Cenre. The IHHA host member was the QR( Queensland Rail). The host member director was Mr. Brian Bock, Group General Manager Workshops, QR. This technical conference was held in combination with the AusRail 2001 biennial business conference of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and the Railway Technical Society of Australasia (RTSA).

1999 Conference “Wheel/Rail Interface”
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The 1999 STS Conference, Wheel/Rail Interface, was held in Moscow, Russia on June 14 through 17th, 1999. The IHHA host member was the All Russian Railway Research Institute, a Department of the Ministry of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation. The subject of this Specialist Technical Session (STS) meeting was to merge the best state-of-the-art technical knowledge with practical consideration to guide the selection of materials, design criteria and maintenance practices for optimal selection of wheel and rail systems matched to varied heavy haul services and operating conditions.

1997 Conference “Strategies Beyond 2000”
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 The 1997 International Conference, STRATEGIES BEYOND 2000 was held in Cape Town, South Africa on April 6 through 10th, 1997. The IHHA host member was SPOORNET. The Conference Manager and Chairman of the Organizing Committee was Mr. Danie J. van Zijl, Executive Manager of Metrorail. The conference aim was to bring together railway business, technical and operational managers, as well as process and hardware suppliers to review past performance, analyze present practices and project future strategies.

1996 STS Conference “Running Heavy-Running Fast into the 21st Century”
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The 1996 STS-Conference Running Heavy-Running Fast into the 21st Century was held in Montreal, Canada at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel on June 9th to 12th , 1996. The IHHA host member was the Railway Association of Canada (RAC). The subject of this Specialist Technical Session (STS) meeting was Freight Car Trucks/Bogies in Heavy Haul Service.

1994 Mini-Conference “Rolling Asset Management”
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The 1994 Mini-Conference “Rolling Asset management” held at the Red Lion Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska June 5-8 was jointly sponsored by the AAR, ASME and RPI. One-half day was devoted to joining with the ASME in dedication of Union Pacific Railroad heritage locomotives in Kenefick Park -the Big Boy articulated steam engine and the 8-axle Centennial diesel-electric locomotive - then on to inspect the UP facilities: Harriman dispatch centre, research and test centre and the railway museum. The Conference was followed by two tours. The first day was to the Burlington Northern Railroad “Havelock” freight car repair and wheel shops and then to the nearby CAE Vanguard plant where axles are re-sized and/or reconditioned. The second day consisted of a special train trip from Omaha to Hastings, NE and return to view line changes, modern track construction, new style high speed turnouts, high density traffic and signalling.

1993 Conference  “Efficiency and Safety Within the Heavy Haul Field of Operation” 

The Fifth Conference on “Efficiency and Safety Within the Heavy Haul Fields of Operation” was held June 6-11 1993 at the Great Wall Hotel in Beijing, Peoples Republic of China. During the Conference one-half day was devoted to a tour of the laboratories and test track loop of the Peoples Republic of China Academy of Railway Sciences. In addition there was a two-day post Conference technical train tour from Beijing to the Port of Qinhuangdao and return to view the coal hauling and unloading operation on the newly completed eastern segment of the new heavy haul line from the coal fields at Datong to the Yellow Sea.

1991 Wheel/Rail Treatise
The IHHA arranged an Organisational meeting of experts in the field of wheel/rail wear at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver, BC on June 5-7 1991. The mission of this group was to define recommended practices on the control of wheel/rail wear. The results of their work will be a hard cover reference book on the subject that will be made available to the heavy haul industry and its suppliers. This will be the first book of a series to be sponsored by the IHHA on key heavy haul problem areas.

1989 Conference “Railways In Action”
The Fourth Conference on “Railways In Action” was conducted at the Sheraton-Brisbane Hotel on September 11-15 1989. In addition to the plenary sessions offered in the past the re were a number of breakout specialists technical sessions plus both indoor and outdoor exhibits by suppliers. The Conference was an outstanding success with 502 delegates and 207 spouses.

1986 Conference - “Profitability Through Technology and Operating Efficiency”
The Third Conference was held October 13-17 1986 at the Hyatt Hotel in Vancouver, BC, Canada. It was a most successful meeting and attracted 467 delegates world-wide. Early arrivals were able to take in the closing week of the Vancouver world’s Fair. During the Conference there was a technical tour to the Roberts Banks coal terminal, which handles export coal for both the CPR and BN. Following the Conference there were two post Conference technical tours. One was a trip to Prince George to make a rail liner trip over the new British Columbia Railroad heavy haul electrified line to the mine at Tumbler Ridge. The other was a train trip up the Fraser River canyon via CNR and CPR to view heavy haul train operations and view the construction of both these railroads.

1982 Conference - “Heavy Haul Railways”
The second conference on “Heavy Haul Railways” was held September 25 - 29 1982 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, CO, USA, in conjunction with the Federal Railway Administration, Railway Progress Institute, American Railway Engineering Association and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Despite the business recession it had a turnout of 420 delegates and 37 spouses.

Following the Conference there was a tour of the nearby US Department of Transportation (DOT) Transportation Test Center northeast of Pueblo, Colorado. In addition to the stationary vibration test stand and the roller dynamic test stand for both locomotives and cars there were several test track loops. The most notable loop was the 4.8 mile FAST loop (Facility for Accelerated Service Testing) used to operate an 80 car loaded unit train at speeds up to 40 mph. Each car carried a nominal net load of 100 tons. The purpose of FAST was primarily to test the behaviour of infrastructure and track structure under various punishing service conditions.

1978 Conference
The first conference was held September 18 - 22 1978 at the Sheraton Hotel in Perth, Australia and deemed an immediate success. It was organised by the Institution of Engineers, Australia and the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy on behalf of Cliff Robe River Iron Associates, Goldsworthy Mining Ltd, Hammersley Iron Pty Ltd, Mount Newman Mining Co Pty Ltd and Westrail. It drew more than 400 delegates. Before this conference drew to a close a group of railway organisations from different countries agreed to an informal coalition to promote additional conferences every four years. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) was requested to sponsor the next Conference.