Imagine waking one day to hear the news that Canadian Pacific Railway, in its quest to expand market reach, has acquired hundreds of miles of Union Pacific trackage in the northwestern United States. Relax. No such deal has been announced—at least not yet.
Author: Bruce E. Kelly
The first signs of physical progress have been made in BNSF Railway’s long-awaited plan to build a second bridge, nearly a mile in length, running parallel to its existing bridge across Lake Pend Oreille near Sandpoint, Idaho. Preliminary grading began in September 2019 on both sides of the lake to prepare the approaches to the new bridge. Within the city of Sandpoint itself, grade work has included the construction of a pedestrian tunnel—paid for by BNSF—which will safely maintain public access through railroad property to a popular beach and lakeside trail.
The derailment of two separate oil trains roughly two months apart near Guernsey, Sask., each spilling more than 300,000 gallons of crude onto the ground and one igniting into a smoldering inferno, plus the resulting 30-day mandatory speed limit on such trains imposed by Transport Canada (20 mph in urban areas, 25 mph elsewhere), have raised questions about not only the cause of those derailments, but also about the durability of the tank cars, and the volatility of the crude they were carrying. It should also raise questions, and awareness, about the transport of Canadian crude on the U.S. rail system.
A rapid and well-coordinated response to a New Year’s Day derailment on BNSF’s Kootenai River Subdivision in northern Idaho got track cleared and repaired, and trains rolling again, by Jan. 4.
In early October, BNSF placed in service approximately 2.5 miles of second main track near the community of Westmond, Idaho, closing the gap between two larger sections of double-track main line on one of the busiest and often congested segments of the company’s Northern Corridor.
It’s been a busy year of expansion and improvements at the White Pass & Yukon Route. The hugely popular tourist railroad, based out of Skagway, Alaska, was sold on July 31, 2018, to a joint venture involving cruise line Carnival Corporation and Rail Management Services, an affiliate of Survey Point Holdings.
A revolutionary track design to stage and process more trains more efficiently through loading and unloading terminals was recognized at The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Engineering Excellence Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., on May 7, 2019. ACEC’s Grand Award was given to Omaha-based HDR, Inc., for its patent-pending Infinity Loop.
BNSF is experimenting with the process of combining two empty unit grain trains into one and sending the double-length train east out of Auburn, Wash., over Stampede Pass.
The past two decades have been a time of steady growth for Union Pacific’s only route to the Canadian border, running from Hinkle, Ore., north through Spokane, Wash., to Eastport, Idaho. Capacity improvements performed over the past several years, and more scheduled for 2019, are evidence of UP’s commitment to accommodate new business through this seldom-mentioned international gateway.
To an industry that routinely faces the aftermath of flooding, mudslides, avalanches, hurricanes and even earthquakes, the concept of service disruption due to an erupting volcano seems almost unthinkable. But according to a recent study, and judging by the not-so-distant history of volcanoes in the U.S., some railroads are in fact quite vulnerable to such disasters, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.