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Rail News: Maintenance Of Way

UP battles weather and track conditions on Powder River Basin line


In January, Union Pacific Railroad set a coal train loadings record on the joint southern Powder River Basin line in Wyoming. The railroad loaded 1,123 trains or an average of 36.2 trains per day, a 2.2 trains-per-day increase compared with January 2005. UP jointly operates the line with BNSF Railway Co.

However, weather-related problems affected UP’s train loadings last month. During February’s first half, the Class I averaged 37.3 trains per day — one-third train per day higher than February 2005’s average. But near-record cold temperatures between Feb. 15 and 20 — which caused mechanical and operational problems — reduced the railroad’s daily average to 27.8 trains. From Feb. 21-28, train loadings climbed to a 36.6 trains per day.

“During February, we experienced a total of 110 missed loading opportunities,” said Doug Glass, UP vice president and general manager of energy, in a letter to coal customers.

To ensure track integrity and prevent missed loadings, UP has employed three teams to determine ways to reduce the amount of coal dust deposited on the line’s roadbed. In addition, UP, BNSF and the National Coal Transportation Association have developed a coal-loading chute designed to distribute coal more evenly and lower a load’s profile above a rail car’s side sills.

UP and BNSF also continue to improve the joint line’s infrastructure. UP recently opened a Marysville, Kan., bypass, which is reducing delays on a corridor to Kansas City, Mo. UP currently is installing a third run-through track in North Platte, Neb., for coal train processing, extending sidings and adding staging capacity for coal moving to river terminals, and installing centralized traffic control across Iowa.

In conjunction with BNSF, UP is building a third mainline between Nacco Junction and Reno Junction, Wyo. The railroads are considering a plan to add a fourth track on Logan Hill.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/10/2006