Rails Across the Permafrost

Railways are a pretty efficient mode of transport, but there’s not too many lines in the world that come with a $10M-per Kilometer price tag. The most northerly line in the world will snake its way across Baffin Island…

globeandmail.com: An iron road across the permafrost

The current plan is to start building the railway from both ends. As construction progresses, a series of work camps will be established along the route. The line will use a special type of high-grade steel designed for the extremely cold environment. And care will have to be taken to ensure that the embankment acts as an insulating layer that stops the permafrost from thawing.

“The principle is fairly simple,” Mr. Cooper said. “You’re building the railway embankment out of a material that’s not going to change its volume or shape as it freezes or thaws.”

The line will ferry workers to the mine site but will be used primarily to carry ore to the port, from which it will be shipped to Rotterdam. The projections call for four trains a day, nearly 300 days a year.


At 143 km long this hardly seems like a viable project, but with an estimated 18 million tonnes fo ore expected to be shipped from the mine to smelters in Europe, perhaps there is the appitite for this railway. Click here for an image from the Globe and Mail (may require subscription).

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.