Class I Briefs: BNSF, UP

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
“Last year, aggregates were a rock star among our business segments,” BNSF reported in a Feb. 21 LinkedIn post. (BNSF Photograph)

“Last year, aggregates were a rock star among our business segments,” BNSF reported in a Feb. 21 LinkedIn post. (BNSF Photograph)

BNSF “crushed it” in 2023, moving record loads of aggregates, and donates $2 million to the National Juneteenth Museum in Texas. Also, Union Pacific (UP) Executive Vice President Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker provides a status report on the railroad, which recently announced it will serve Midwest Refrigerated Services in Illinois.


“Last year, aggregates were a rock star among our business segments,” BNSF reported in a Feb. 21 LinkedIn post. The Class I said it moved a record 149,000 loads of granite, limestone, and other base materials that are used to manufacture concrete and construction sand.

“Much of the credit goes to our Red River Division, covering portions of Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma,” the railroad reported its Manager Sales, Industrial Products Omar S., as saying. “We met this demand as a result of the Operations team and our Fort Worth-based Network Operations Center doing their job so well. It’s a direct testament to them and their ability to safely cycle the train sets used in this business as expeditiously as possible. They met this challenge head on.”

In related news, UP also reported having a “rocking good year” in 2023.

National Juneteenth Museum Rendering

BNSF also reported contributing a $2 million “founding donation” to the National Juneteenth Museum, which is slated to open in Fort Worth’s Historic Southside neighborhood on June 19, 2025. It is being called “a landmark project dedicated to building opportunities to advance future generations while fostering conversations on the global significance of freedom and the celebration of Juneteenth worldwide.”

The 50,000 square-foot museum and cultural center will host guest lectures, community events and performances in its 250-seat amphitheater; bring families together at the on-site food hall featuring emerging chef concepts; and “launch big ideas into reality through its business incubator,” according to officials.

What is Juneteenth? The museum provides this background: “Texas was the last state in the Union to allow enslavement. While the Emancipation Proclamation was made law on Jan. 1, 1863, freedom from slavery wasn’t announced in Texas until Union Major-General Gordon Granger issued General Order #3 in Galveston on June 19, 1865. The date, since dubbed ‘Juneteenth,’ is now observed annually as a federal holiday to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation’s enforcement and the liberation of the remainder of the enslaved both in Texas and throughout the newly reformed United States.”

“BNSF is proud to partner with the National Juneteenth Museum to help honor American history and foster opportunities for economic and cultural growth, right near our headquarters here in Fort Worth,” said Zak Andersen, BNSF Vice President of Corporate Relations and BNSF Railway Foundation President. “We look forward to all the museum will bring to the community and the country by shining a light on those who have paved the way for future generations.”

“We are incredibly grateful to BNSF Railway, a world-class service provider and highly regarded community stakeholder, for its generous investment,” National Juneteenth Museum President and CEO Jarred Howard said. “We are thrilled that guests of the National Juneteenth Museum will be made aware of BNSF’s commitment through this inaugural naming rights partnership.”


UP Photograph

“As we round out February, I’m encouraged with the team’s progress to get our overall service performance back to pre-holiday levels,” UP Executive Vice President Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker wrote in a Feb. 21 customer letter. “While there are pockets on our network that are facing some challenges from recent storms and interchange connections, we continue to stay engaged with our supply chain partners to resolve issues as quickly as possible and deliver an improved service product to you.”

In terms of resources, UP continues to be in a “good position,” he told customers. “We have a good locomotive supply to meet available demand, and our hiring plan for train crews remains solid.”

Rocker provided the most recent key operating metrics, which he reported “are holding steady over the past three weeks”:

  • AAR weekly carloadings at 155,879.
  • Car velocity steady at 203 miles per day.
  • Car dwell is flat at 23.3 hours.
  • AAR train speed is holding at 23.8 mph.

Rocker also reported that the railroad is focused on delivering “a quality and consistent service product.” To do so, it is listening to gain a better understanding of what is most important to customers. Following interviews with more than 100 of them, he said these two common themes surfaced:

  1. “For our manifest and intermodal customers, many of you rely on our historical performance to inform your rail transportation planning decisions, but we didn’t have a measure that reflected this practice.
  2. “For our unit train customers, you weren’t seeing yourselves in the monthly data we were reporting and wanted a measure more reflective of your transportation experiences with Union Pacific.”

With this feedback in mind, Rocker said, the railroad designed a new measure called the Service Performance Index (SPI). “For manifest and intermodal, the Service Performance Index will help you compare the service you are receiving today with the best monthly network performance over the last three years,” he explained. “We’ll reach for that historical best benchmark and endeavor to out-perform that level of performance.

“For our bulk (unit train) business, we will measure how well our bulk trains are achieving their demand and cycle time plans on a monthly basis. This allows us to provide a key service measure to a group of customers that didn’t have a measure before.”

Rocker told customers that the SPI, in addition to UP’s other key service metrics, “will keep us in a continuous improvement mindset as we work with you to drive shared success and growth.”

Meanwhile, UP also reported via social media that Milwaukee, Wis.-based Midwest Refrigerated Services has broken ground on a 200,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Belvidere, Ill. The 3PL (third-party logistics provider) offers refrigerated storage and distribution-related services, as well as refrigerated and frozen LTL and TL transportation services.

According to Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, UP will serve the site, which is expected to open in March 2025.

Appleton, Wis.-based Consolidated Construction has been selected to build the facility, which the magazine said will provide “more than 40,000 pallet positions of refrigerated storage and will employ state-of-the-art layer picking technology.”

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