Blogs

  • Blog Post: Rush Loving: What Kind of Owner Will Warren Buffett Be?

    By Rush Loving --UPDATED-- A lot of people at Burlington Northern Santa Fe are probably wondering what Warren Buffett will do to their company once Berkshire Hathaway completes its purchase in the next few months.. Everyone in the railroad industry knows all about predators who come seeking quick profits...
  • Blog Post: A mid-winter thaw

    Last week, I was reading Slate Magazine’s Moneybox column by Daniel Gross , in which he makes the case that recovery will come sooner and stronger than we expect. Much as I’d like to believe him, I think we all have doubts right now about how long it’ll be before the economy we live on returns to normal...
  • Blog Post: What's bigger than coal in rail's future?

    Within eight years, the biggest producer of oil in the world will be … yes, the United States of America. Bigger than Saudi Arabia and any of the other sheikdoms. So says the International Energy Agency , a Paris-based organization that The Wall Street Journal describes as a highly regarded source...
  • Blog Post: Two railroads, two trains, two outcomes

    Updated March 1, 2013 I am just back from two transcontinental train trips, one after the other, from Chicago to Seattle on Amtrak’s Empire Builder and from Vancouver, B.C., to Toronto on VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian. I enjoyed both experiences — in each instance, the well maintained...
  • Blog Post: Bigger than the shift from steam

    I’ve been wrapping my arms around the announcement this week that BNSF Railway will test-fuel locomotives with liquefied natural gas (LNG), with a view toward starting large-scale conversions away from diesel fuel as soon as 2014. This is a game-changing development, and holds out the promise of...
  • Blog Post: I'm back: Things you may not know

    Natural gas as locomotive fuel. Within six months BNSF Railway will be testing six high-horsepower locomotives, three each from General Electric and Caterpillar’s Electro-Motive, using liquefied natural gas. A switch from diesel fuel would cost BNSF billions of dollars up front, but could pay for...
  • Blog Post: What you see when you see a train

    In early evening you pull your Dodge Durango to a stop in Strong City, Kan., beside the handsome Santa Fe-built brick depot. Sitting in front of it are three BNSF Railway locomotives fronting a double-stack container train that stretches out of sight around a curve half a mile away. And looking the other...
  • Blog Post: Mr. Buffett, tear down this wall!

    BNSF Railway has an identity problem. If you ask, as I did, a dozen strangers on the sidewalks of Washington, D.C., what BNSF Railway means, you will get just quizzical stares. You see, one thing a professional writer learns early on is that words, and names, have meaning. They inspire (“rockets...
  • Blog Post: Incident at Medill

    Little things tell you a lot. Mark Hinsdale and I are exploring the Chicago-Kansas City artery of the former Santa Fe Railway. Leaving the southeast corner of Iowa at Fort Madison and entering Missouri, we may as well be traversing a foreign country. The present BNSF Railway veers southwest through a...
  • Blog Post: Let's beat up on lawyers

    Both of my wives (god bless each, in turn) are lawyers, so I realize they are folks society needs, just like journalists, members of Congress, and morticians, who often are also targets of disdain. But sometimes your mouth is open in unbelievable wonder at the audacity of the legal profession. The...
  • Blog Post: Awaiting the revolution

    Last year, BNSF Railway’s Matt Rose startled the industry by revealing that his company would test locomotives fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), with the possibility of full-scale implementation of this new (for railroads) fuel source starting as soon as the end of 2014. At the time, I called...
  • Blog Post: Is this the new 1997?

    When a railroad makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal, it’s almost never the cause for celebration at corporate headquarters. It means you have screwed up big time. Now it is the turn of BNSF Railway to do the front-page perp walk. For 55 of my 70 years, the problem facing BNSF, namely...
  • Blog Post: Winter's parting insult

    For BNSF Railway, the winter just now fitfully fading away in the upper Midwest was one for the record books, or at least the recent record books. I was in North Dakota this week, curious to see if any of the congestion remained. I found very little of that, other than loaded oil trains staged between...
  • Blog Post: Engine with a whole lotta hurt

    Never a dull moment at Ellinor, Kan. Ellinor is the place, population zero, west of Emporia where BNSF Railway's Transcon to California separates from the route to Colorado and then down to Albuquerque, N.M. Several decades ago I stood in a farmer's field at Ellinor, watching freights whiz by, and was...
  • Blog Post: Bouncing through The Great State

    When last you heard from me, Mark the Amtrak red cap in Chicago had met my four-hours-late Lake Shore Limited and hustled me onto the Texas Eagle , which was being held for our tardy train. Also held were all the other westbound streamliners trains that afternoon. Good hustle! I was impressed. But what...
  • Blog Post: Freight cars fly two miles!

    It’s just incredible, the power of a Midwest thunderstorm these days. Why, just this week storm winds were reportedly the cause of one BNSF Railway freight train being blown off the tracks at the east end of the Waynoka, Okla., yard and derailing another passing train as well. But we have a...
  • Blog Post: Why your next trip will induce heartburn

    I’ve said before that any train I’m on can be as late as you like. I believe my exact words were “more train-riding pleasure for the same low price.” Well, forget that. I’ve changed my mind. Even idiots like me have their limit, and mine has been breached. Any train more...
  • Blog Post: The tough new rules of oil by rail?

    Railroads came to Washington this week to make the case at the White House against what could be tough new rules being drawn up by the U.S. Department of Transportation for handling crude oil. The proposals, which have not yet been made public, may involve slowing crude oil trains to a top speed of 30...
  • Blog Post: Our railroads are a MESS

    I don’t recall ever seeing so much of the railroad industry in such disarray. Examples are everywhere you look. Tens of thousands of new vehicles sit on lots in Detroit and Toledo, waiting for rail cars to take them to dealers. Canadian National and Canadian Pacific strain under their government’s...
  • Blog Post: The demise of crude by rail is greatly exaggerated

    Some of my correspondents — smart people, all — have gotten a case of the jitters regarding crude oil by rail. They point to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, the keeper of statistics for Bakken shale production, which says rail’s market share of oil leaving the state fell from a...
  • Blog Post: Visionary railroading in 2014

    My friend Keel Middleton is a veteran BNSF Railway engineer, working out of Wellington, Kan., on the 311-mile, mostly double-track district west to Amarillo, Tex., on the Chicago-Los Angeles Transcon. Keel has seen business levels at highs and at lows, but never so high as last Friday. You should take...
  • Blog Post: Last-minute decisions (and the Dining Car From Hell)

    How would you solve this problem? You've used a jillion Guest Rewards points to book bedrooms on the Coast Starlight from San Jose, Cal., to Los Angeles, the Sunset Limited to New Orleans and the Crescent to Washington, D.C. The Starlight arrives in LA at 9 p.m., the Sunset leaves at 10 p.m., and therein...
  • Blog Post: Cuff notes* on a rainy day

    I'm writing this in western Pennsylvania, less than an hour after leaving Pittsburgh. Out my window is a dark day, with rain and mist--not the best way to end a four-day trip across the country. I'd rather it be the other way around, that is, raining across the Sierra Nevada range and sunny in the Alleghenies...
  • Blog Post: Foolishness disguised as journalism

    I subscribe 365 days a year to the New York Times (the real NYT, delivered to my driveway), so I obviously think well of it. Bear that in mind as I lay into the newspaper for a really shoddy job of reporting today, reproduced at the conclusion of this blog, so that you can reach your own conclusion....
  • Blog Post: Should China expand U.S. railroads?

    Michael Ward, the esteemed chief executive of CSX Transportation, when asked about his railroad’s chronic state of congestion, says you don’t build a church for Easter Sunday. Is that his final answer? We are left to conclude that CSX would rather offer substandard service at higher and higher...