Trespassing Refresher

Trespassing Refresher

Aaron prepares for a photograph outside of the right of way.

As all railfans know trespassing on railroad property is not an accepted practice.  From time to time its good to have refresher about this and Joe Perry of chasingsteel.com got that refresher a few weeks ago.  Joe had the opportunity to attend a session on the role of the special agent put on by the Union Pacific in San Bernardino.  I recommend dogcaught readers take a few moments to read Joe’s summary of the presentation as I think it gives a good insight to the railroad and special agent’s point of view and offers a refresher on trespassing.

[tags] train, railroad, railfan, photo, photography, trespassing [/tags]

Pac Ride

With the merger partner logos on the side of the locomotive fading badly the nose emblem is becoming the most interesting part of the 2075.

Pac Ride

[tags] train, railroad, railfan, photo, photography, BNSF, Pacific Pride, merger [/tags]

Mocassin, MT – Agri-hub

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United Harvest Elevator, Moccasin, MT

So maybe this post’s title is a bit presumptuous but in Central Montana having a multi use track in 2010 is pretty big news.  In a January 11 article, the Lewistown News-Argus (covering Central Montana like the stars!) reports that Central Montana Cooperatives is planning to build a fertilizer hub on the loop track at Moccasin (known as Grove, symbol GVE to BNSF).  The loop track is currently home to United Harvest’s elevator which loads unit grain trains throughout the year.  The two facilities will certainly make Moccasin a much busier stop on BNSF’s Laurel Sub and will increase its importance to agriculture in the area.

Grove Elevator

Coming Soon – Fertilizer

This new facility will likely improve Central Montana Cooperatives’ delivery efficiency thanks to reduced costs to ship bulk product.  Obviously lower or steady production costs will make farmers in the area quite happy. 

With all this good news I want to stop for a minute and consider the other player in the railroad game at Moccasin, the Central Montana Railroad.  They make their living on the carload business distributed to smaller communities along their line.  With the addition of the fertilizer hub what’s going to happen to them when a co-op in Geraldine decides to truck fertilizer from Moccasin because its cheaper?  CMR and the State of Montana are already in a tussle with BNSF over subsidy payments so I’m afraid that the grain shipping business already lost, the subsidy payments lost, and now the potential for the fertilizer business to be lost may not be good for the future of the CMR freight business.

Grove Loop

Moccasin Loop

As a railfan I certainly don’t want to see the CMR lose more business and disappear.  Their line is one of the few operating pieces of the famed Milwaukee Road that still operates 30 years gone and has many scenic highlights that are hard to find anywhere else.  On top of that they host the Charlie Russell Chew Choo that is not to be missed on a visit to the region. 

The CMR aside the fertilizer hub is still good for business in Central Montana and should be looked at positively for Central Montana and Moccasin.   It may however be one straw too many for some in the region.

[tags] train, railroad, railfan, photo, photography, montana, grain, fertilizer, community, farming [/tags]

Maintenance on the Seattle Side

Looks like BNSF’s Seattle sub maintenance project is now in progress.  Ties litter the right of way from Vancouver to Ridgefield and there is plenty of MOW activity around.  Looks like a busy couple of months on the Seattle sub.

[tags] train, railroad, railfan, photo, photography, BNSF, maintenance [/tags]

The End of Boardman Coal

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A loaded Boardman bound coal train climbs Montana’s Rocky Mountains at Mullan Pass.

I heard on my way to work Friday that PGE is planning to close the Boardman Power Plant by 2020.   PGE has been under tremendous pressure from environmental groups and citizens to close the plant.  Studies of the air quality and health of down winders have brought to light issues with burning coal in eastern Oregon.  In addition PGE faced modifications to the plant to meet updated clean air requirements.  With the effort to clean up the emissions from the plant coming under increasing fire from the public, I think the combination was just too much and PGE decided to cut its losses and move on.

Once the coal plant closes that will mean the end to Boardman bound coal trains.  Generally these trains routed over BNSF from the Powder River Basin mines to Huntley, MRL to Sandpoint, BNSF to Lakeside Jct., and finally down the UP to Boardman.  I think this interesting routing along the coal cars emblazoned with a rose made the Boardman coal trains a railfan favorite.

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Back for more coal

Like most railfans I will miss these trains.  On the other hand the environmental side of me is happy to see the polluting plant go.  While I’m happy to jump on the bandwagon to remove the plant, the problem I see is most people don’t realize the energy generated by the plant will still have to come from somewhere.  Just because PGE closes the plant doesn’t mean the demand drops.  It will just have to be satisfied with another source.  With that in mind I really would have preferred PGE to invest in the plant to make it cleaner (and keep the trains!) but I think they were going to be in a position where any plan that kept the plant open would have brought more attention than they really wanted.  In the end PGE’s decision was probably the best for them from a public relations perspective.  I’m curious to watch and see where the replacement energy will come from.  Will it be someplace more environmentally friendly than Boardman?

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A loaded Boardman coal train slogs it out with Mullan Pass

On the positive side we still have 10 more years to chase these trains.  At least theoretically we do.  My guess is the plant will not run for 10 more years.  The plant previous had mechanical issues so my feeling is once an alternate source of electricity is located if a mechanical failure occurs that will likely spell the end of Boardman Power Plant and the associated coal trains.  Get your photos while you can.

[tags] train, railroad, railfan photo, photography, PGE, boardman, coal, electricity, burn [/tags]