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Rail News: Union Pacific Railroad

UP continues to combat hot, dry conditions in central Texas


Temperatures exceeding 100 degrees and a severe drought in central Texas continue to compromise Union Pacific Railroad’s track structure and impede the Class I’s operations, primarily between San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth.

“The number of slow orders across the area remain well above normal, and operations personnel continue to use speed restrictions across much of the area to protect the track structure and allow for engineering crews to make necessary repairs,” UP officials said in a customer service update issued on Aug. 24. “The speed restrictions, combined with some scheduled maintenance projects, have reduced capacity and put a strain on equipment and crew availability.

The railroad is deploying additional engineering resources to keep pace with necessary track repairs. The excessive temperatures are causing track to buckle, kink or wave, and the parched clay-based soil is causing track subgrades to sink into the ground and become unstable. UP also has adjusted the transportation plan, increased dispatching support at the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, Neb., and added local industry support jobs because of reduced capacity in the area.

But despite efforts to maintain operations and restore infrastructure, improved conditions primarily remain dependent on the weather, UP officials said in the update. The high temperatures and drought already have lingered since June.

“In some cases, engineering crews are having to return to areas where they've made prior repairs, as continued drought conditions again erode ballast and compromise the repaired track structure,” they said. “Rainfall is critical to stabilize the soil and track subgrade across the impacted areas. As the soil and subgrade are stabilized, engineering crews can make the necessary repairs and return train operations to normal speeds.”

Remediation efforts likely will continue until late September or into October, UP officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/29/2011