How do materials reach us? (or the longest trains in the world)

We know that most of the materials we use in our daily life have curious origins. Some come from countris at war, others from some dirty places… but how do they arrive to where we live? Or at least to where they are manufactured?

Sea transport is mentioned very often (because it’s used a lot), but materials spend a lot of time in trains. And these trains, when talking about material transportation, are VERY long. We’re going to mention 2 cases today:

  • The longest train in the world i 7.3 km long. It has only been used once, in Australia, to transport 45000 tons of iron ore. 682 wagons and 8 propulsive units were used.
  • Amongst those ones working on some kind of regular basis, the longest one is in Mauritania: 3 km long. Sometimes it can reach 4,5 km, but most of the time is kept at 3 km (which is still huge!). It’s used to transport iron ore as well, but it can carry passengers. Careful, do not expect any luxury here! Departure times are quite random, and it goes through Western Sahara, which means that if you don’t drop off at the right stop you might end up leaving the country ilegally. Politics…

Looking back at history, this train has some other curious features: when French started to build it, a small part of the route went through Spain-administrated Sahara. Even though it was a very small part, Spain requested for some out-of-limit taxes. They were so high, that French decided to build a tunnel to go under this territory! It was so small that they said it could be cheaper than paying taxxes! Today that tunnel is not in use, since the route changed slightly. It can still be visited though (see picture).

We deal with materials related issues throughout our degree, in subjects such as Metalic Materials, Materials selection, Plastics and Composites, of Recycling. 

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