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Distance coal was generally shipped by rail

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Distance coal was generally shipped by rail
Posted by restorator on Sunday, January 07, 2018 3:28 PM

How far away would coal generally be sent by rail? For example, from appalachian coal country in the eastern US, would coal be shipped all the way to the west coast? or even the south or midwest? And would they be generally the originating eastern railroads cars? 

EDIT: Specifically looking for info from the past. In the late 50s to late 60s eras.

 

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Posted by DSchmitt on Sunday, January 07, 2018 4:05 PM

Recent information

Tables showing cost of transporting coal by rail but not quantities shipped.

Transporting coal by rail from Coal Basin to State

https://www.eia.gov/coal/transportationrates/pdf/table3cr.pdf

Cost of transporting coal by rail from  State to State

https://www.eia.gov/coal/transportationrates/pdf/table4cr.pdf

Coal Basins

 

Map indicates relative quanities of coal shipped but not origin/destination

 

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Posted by DSchmitt on Sunday, January 07, 2018 5:31 PM

Around 1963 I saw on the SP south of San Jose CA a soutbound coal train.   100% Rio Grande including locomotive and caboose

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Posted by JWhite on Tuesday, January 09, 2018 3:36 PM

I model Centralia, IL in 1955.  Centralia was a major terminal for the coal operations in the Southern Illinois and Western Kentucky coal fields. 

I have a copy of an Illinois Central publication, Organization and Trafffic of the Illinois Central System published in 1938.  I'm going to start with that because coal was the primary source of energy in this country until natural gas and heating oil started making big inroads in the 1960s.  The book contains an entire chapter on coal traffic.  In the 1930s through the 60s the IC  served 56 mines in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and West Kentucky.  They also served 36 other mines jointly with other railroads.  In 1937 these mines had the capability to produce 3497 car loads per day.  In 1937 the IC handled 15,209,084 tons of coal which was 33% of the total freight tonnage that year.  They made $16,623,669 on the coal traffic which was 17.7% of total freight revenue.  So where did the IC haul this coal?  I'll quote from the book:

Marketing of coal. The higher grade coals are preferred in the domestic trade. This coal is hauled by truck or wagon from retail yards to which it moves in railroad cars.  Industrial firms always endeavoring to keep their power cost at a minimum, equip their plants with stokers that will enable them to burn efficiently the low grade coals which are usually cheaper then the higher grade, and they attempt also to utilize coal moving on short rates.

In this way, a condition is created whereby there is a market not only for the high grade coals, but for the low grade as well. There is a certain balance to the situation which obviates the necessity of everybody tryong to use only the high grade coals.

Coals produced in Illinois and West Kentucky are not of as good a quality as those produced in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia; regardless of this fact there is a competition between these different fuels in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.  The eastern coals move on higher freight rates and are used largely for domestic consumption. The domestic consumer usually is willing to pay a premium for higher quality.

IUn Chicago, where the elimination of smoke is importtant, the retail yards use large qualities of West Virginia smokeless coal, commonly known as Pocahontas, and the Eastern operators have for years had a marked advantage in Chicago retail markets because of the quality and low smoke content of their so called smokeless coals.

Recently small stokers have been produced that burn our Western coals efficiently, automatically, and with a very minimum amount of smoke. With the introduction of these stokers, which are being sold very rapidly, our Western coals are taking business away from the Eastern smokeless coals, and also from gas and oil.

For years there has been a big movement of Eastern coals to Lake Erie ports, thence via boat to docks on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, such as Milwaukee, Green Bay and Duluth.  At these docks the coal is loaded on cars and reshipped to points in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Northern Iowa.  This movement, because it enjoys cheap water rates, has displaced tonnages which would otherwise have moved from Illinois, Indiana and West Kentucky. This is one of the many comptetive situations that the operators in our fields have to meet and with which they are continually struggling.

The trend of coal movement is along very well developed lines and in certain definate marketing channels. Indiana coal markets in Indiana; heavily in Chicago, because of relatively low freight rates; to a lesser degree in Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Illinois coal moves very slightly to Indiana but markets heavliy in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and to a small extent in Nebraska. West Kentucky coal moves about 50% north of the Ohio River to the same markets as Illinois and about 50% to points in the southern states, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisana.

There is some movement of Illinois coal to points south of the Ohio River. However, due to the fact that West Kentucky has a lower wage scale then Southern Illinois , it's coal sells for a lower price in the South then in Illinois. As a result Western Kentucky coal largely controls the Southern markets, excepting where it runs into cometition with Alabama coal, which is of a much higher grade and usually enjoys lower rates.

The other big coal hauler in Southern Illinois was the CB&Q.  Between 1900 and 1970 the CB&Q moved 600 million tons of coal out of the Southern Illinois coal fields.  Where did this coal go?  For this information lets turn to Burlington Bulletin Number 35  The Q in the Coal Fields 

One important aspect of any discussion of markets for coal is the seasonal nature of the coal business. For most of the history of coal production in the region, full demand peaked in the late fall and early winter months gradually tapering off until spring, then remaining very low through the summer months.

Coal mine operations and coal traffic patterns for most of the period the Burlington served the Southern Illinois mines were marked by this cyclical pattern. During slack times the mines operated just one or two days per week, and in some cases not at all. During busy periods mines operated five and six days a week, and during moderate times, somewhere in between. Prior to 1960, very few Southern Illinois mines operated more then 200 days per year.

As the utility market became more important, this seasonal pattern was drastically modified. With the advent of home aircontioning, peak demand for electricity came in the summer. So likewise, peak demand for coal was also in the summer, with a smaller peak in the winter.  The summer peak was exaggerated by the fact that, tradionally, coal mines closed for two weeks in June and July for miners' vacations. Consequently, utility customers typically bought more coal in the period immediately preceeding the vacation shutdown and stockpiled it, pushing the early summer peak demand even higher.

Since the Burlington's function was was to move coal from the mines to the customers, it is important to discuss where those customers were located geographically. As far as the railroad was concerned, the most important users of Southern Illinois coal were located in the Chicago area, and a large percentage of the coal produced along the CB&Q  ended up in the metropolitan Chicago area. The second most important group of customers was in the ST Louis area, which the Q reached over the B&O from Shattuc.

A unique coal transportation market on which the Q had a virtual lock was the Twin Cities and the Dakotas. An almost water level direct route from Southern Illinois to the Twin Cities aided the rairoad in moving a considerable tonnage of coal into that market and to intermediate points such as the Quad Cities, Savanna and LaCrosse.

In addition to the metropolitan areas, the entire Lines East region of the railroad was a prinicipal market area for Southern Illinois coal. And within Lines East territory, the Burlington itself was a major purchaser, since Illinois coal was the prime locomotive fuel.

Good customers were also located off-line throughout the midwestern United States, and the Q interchanged coal traffic with many other roads to serve these customers.

The Burlington, particularly in later years, also transported a considerable volume of coal that was transferred either at the Illinois River or at Mississippi River ports into river barges, or at ports in the Chicago area for shipment to destinations on the Great Lakes.

Until after WWII, coal, on the Burlington ay least, did not move south of the producing fields. All this changed when the US Atomic Energy Commission built a gaseous diffusion plant at Paducah in the early 1950s.

As you can see how far coal moved was dependent on it's quality and on the market at the time.

I hope this helps.

Jeff

 

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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 12:30 PM

    Western states got their coal from mines in Utah and Colorado. However most electrical power plants in the west burn oil or natural gas since the west coast has lots of oil and natural gas but no coal of it’s own. Western railroads used oil burning locomotives instead of coal.
    The first unit trains of coal were created to bring coal from mines in Utah and Colorado to Kaiser steel mill in California. It was 1600 miles round trip.

Here is some really interesting informantion about the trains and the coal mines. 1942-1981

http://utahrails.net/utahcoal/kaiser-trains.php

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 12:34 PM

There is a giant modern coal burning power plant which produces electricity for Las Vegas that uses coal from Utah. Most people think that Hoover dam provides the power for Las vegas but nowadays it can only light up one neighborhood, not the whole city. The coal burning powerplant is being replaced by a solar powerplant and natural gas burning plants.

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:29 PM

There are coal-fired plants in Florida and Georgia that burn Powder River Basin (Wyoming) coal today. 2000 miles there, 2000 miles back. Plant Scherer (Atlanta) alone burns 30,000 tons a day. That's three one-mile long 100-car coal drags each and every day, rain or shine.

Robert

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:42 PM

Coal off the Clinchfield would travel to a steel mill in Gary,Indiana.

Larry

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Posted by NWP SWP on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:57 PM

I've never heard of coal being shipped by rail, I've heard of it being shipped via freight cars that ride on rails! Laugh just kidding with you...

A good resource for coal railroad modeling is Kalmbachs "The model railroaders guide to coal railroading" by Tony Koester and if you're modeling mountains Kalmbachs "the model railroaders guide to mountain railroading" by Tony Koester is also a good help...

Steven

Crooner, Imagineer, High School Senior, living with Aspergers, and President of the NWP-SWP System.

Modeling the combined lines of the Southern Pacific, Western Pacific, and Northern Pacific after a fictional Depression Era merger forming the SouthWestern Pacific and NorthWestern Pacific Railroads. SP, WP, and NP operations remain independent but also operate alongside NWP and SWP equipment.

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Posted by JWhite on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 2:00 PM

The coal fired power plants here mostly burn Powder River Basin coal despite the fact that we sit on some of the largest coal deposits on the planet.  I think maybe one or two of the mines in Southern Illinois are still operating. 

A BNSF coal train from the Powder River basin started running past my house daily at the first of the year.  At first I thought that the trains that served a powerplant in Southern Illinois that ran on the old CB&Q line from Beardstown to Centralia had been re-routed for some reason.  Some checking revealed that it's a train that used to run from Wyoming to Newton IL on the UP.  For some reason it's coming down the BNSF to Centralia, then going back North 50 miles to Effingham and then on to Newton.  Any way you look at it, the new route is 100 miles longer.

There is a mine at Hillsboro IL (in Central llinois) that built a private rail line 10 miles to the powerplant at Coffeen, IL.  That coal goes right from the mine to the powerplant and doesn't run on a class 1 railroad at all.

 

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 2:23 PM

When the Homer City (NE of Pittsburgh) plant was built in the '60s, it was smack dab at the mouth of the coal mine. I think the mine has receded about 10 miles since then, but coal is still hauled in on rubber-tired trucks.

Robert

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Posted by DSchmitt on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 3:03 PM

Lone Wolf and Santa Fe
Western states got their coal from mines in Utah and Colorado. However most electrical power plants in the west burn oil or natural gas since the west coast has lots of oil and natural gas but no coal of it’s own. Western railroads used oil burning locomotives instead of coal.

Actually there is is some coal in California. $7 of the 58 Counties have coal deposits. Coal was discovered at Corral Hollow Canyon (12 miles south of Livermore) in 1855, a mine opened in 1868. In 1897 the town of Tesla was established and the area b.ecame the leading coal mining area in California.  The Tesla mines closed in 1911.

    http://www.teslacoalmines.org/Tesla.html

 

The Southern Pacific had a large coal dock in Santa Monica where coal was unloaded from ships to fuel SP locomotives.  It ceased operation when the railroad converted to oil.  First oil burners in 1895.

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Posted by NittanyLion on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 5:39 PM

I don't know off hand and for a fact, but here's something to keep in mind: not all coal is the same, and I don't just mean bituminous and anthracite.  There likely would be buyers looking for coal from, say, Western PA down in Tennessee or something, if they were looking for specific products.

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Posted by restorator on Friday, January 12, 2018 7:49 AM

Thanks for all the info guys, That was enlightening. I would also assume in most cases the string of cars would more likely than not belong to the originating railroad with an occasional group of privately owned cars by really big customers?

 

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, January 12, 2018 9:32 AM

And let's not overlook tide coal..That's export coal that is loaded into ocean going vessels bound for other countries.

Larry

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, January 12, 2018 9:54 AM

Generally, private owner coal cars weren't common until unit coal trains came along - trains that aren't switched, they're run from the mine to say a power plant and back again over and over without being uncoupled or switched etc. Although unit coal trains started in the 1960s, they weren't really common until the 1980s, when you'd see say a train of bathtub gons all owned by a power company running as a unit.

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Posted by JWhite on Saturday, January 13, 2018 3:49 PM

restorator

Thanks for all the info guys, That was enlightening. I would also assume in most cases the string of cars would more likely than not belong to the originating railroad with an occasional group of privately owned cars by really big customers?

 

 

 

As was noted before, private owner cars are going to depend on the era you model. 

Hopper cars in a given train may or may not belong to the railroad that served the mine the coal came from.  There were several mines in Southern Illinois that were served by 4 different railroads.  The IC, CB&Q, C&EI and Missouri Pacific.  These mines operated with reciprical switching agreements with the railroads taking turns switching the mine for a year at a time.  So you would see hoppers from all of those railroads being hauled to where they were interchanged back to home rails.

You could also find hoppers belonging to roads that didn't serve the mine.  I have a lot of photos from the 1930s through 1960 which show B&O and L&N hoppers at the mines.  

And don't forget gondolas.  There was a lot of coal hauled in gondolas.  This was especially true out west.  The CB&Q used a lot of USRA clone compostie gondolas in the coal fields here well into the 1960s.

Jeff White

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Posted by Heartland Division CB&Q on Saturday, January 13, 2018 10:02 PM

867 miles is average length of haul for coal according to the Association of American Railroads. 

 

"Due in part to the high consumption of low- sulfur Western coal by utilities throughout the country, the average length of haul for rail coal movements has trended upward over the years, reaching 867 miles in 2014 an all-time high. "

https://www.aar.org/BackgroundPapers/Railroads%20and%20Coal.pdf

 

 

GARRY

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Posted by acksback on Saturday, February 24, 2018 7:24 AM

In much of New England, bituminous coal arrived at ports in ships, often sailing schooners to a very late date.  Power plants were built on the water and coal unloaded into piles directly from the ship, then conveyed into the plant itself.

When coal was shipped inland from a port on the B&M, just as an example, it would mostly travel in B&M or other local railroad cars -- not very far, in other words.

Anthracite, I would bet, would come in PRR and NYC cars.

 

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, February 26, 2018 8:16 AM

BTW at one time, the port of Duluth / Superior received large amounts of Eastern US coal via Great Lakes lake boats. From there, the coal would go by rail to the Twin Cities or to other places in the Upper Midwest. Today, it's the other way around, as a lot of Powder River coal goes there to be loaded onto lake boats going east.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, February 26, 2018 8:43 AM

wjstix
Today, it's the other way around, as a lot of Powder River coal goes there to be loaded onto lake boats going east.

Yup,and the NS dock at Sandusky still loads Appalachian coal into the lakers bound for various lake ports and steel mills.

And we shouldn't overlook the rail to barge coal operation on the Ohio and other major rivers.

Larry

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, February 26, 2018 9:09 AM

And the beginning of the unit coal train boom started in the late 1960's, which includes the time frame specified by the OP.  Coal from the Sunny Side branch on the D&RGW in Utah began in the late 1960's and used Thrall Hi-side gondolas lettered for D&RGW and UP "Coal Liner" and shuttled between Utah and the Geneva coal plant in southern California.

The D&RGW shipped coal all over the place including Northern Power and Light (NORX) in Indiana, Coleto Creek Texas and of course many local power stations in Colorado and Utah.

Modeling the D&RGW in the during the caboose era can be a bit expensive because of all the coal trains.  Many hauled coal in Rio Grande lettered coal cars but many also ran in private marked cars.

Although unit coal trains started in the 1960s, they weren't really common until the 1980s, when you'd see say a train of bathtub gons all owned by a power company running as a unit.

On the D&RGW, unit coal trains were common in the 1970's.  Many of those unit trains did us coal cars from Rio Grandes very large "great steel fleet" of Bethlehem 100 ton quad hoppers (made in HO by Walthers and ExactRail).  There were others as well such as the Ortner rapid discharge 5-bay hoppers CSDPU (Colorado Springs District Public Utilities - later changed to CSDU).  Of the top of my head, D&RGW had a number of private lettered coal train sets they hauled during the 1970's (NORX, CSDU

Here is a link to a page showing D&RGW coal train symbols starting in 1981, but many of those trains were running in the 1970's mind you.

http://www.carrtracks.com/drgw.htm

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, February 26, 2018 12:07 PM

Coal was shipped from Illinois to Spain and from Utah to Australia and China so pretty far, but that was more modern eras.

The coal market changed dramatically in the 1970's and 1980's with the emissions requirements.  Low sulphur Wyoming coal became more popular than eastern coal because of those requirements.  As the density map shows, the Wyoming coal fields supplied coal primarily to the central/southern texas area, the Tennessee river valley, Chicago and as far east as Atlanta (Plant Scherer was one of the biggest single customers for Wyoming coal, with W Labadie outside St Louis a close second).

Prior to that coal was more local, less than a thousand miles, because there was a lot of it spread around the country and the biggest demand was east of the Mississippi where the most coal was.  Certain specific coals were shipped longer distances.  Anthracite coal, due to its high purity, is still shipped from eastern Pennsylvania to chemical plants on the west coast.

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, February 26, 2018 10:18 PM

NittanyLion
I don't know off hand and for a fact, but here's something to keep in mind: not all coal is the same, and I don't just mean bituminous and anthracite. There likely would be buyers looking for coal from, say, Western PA down in Tennessee or something, if they were looking for specific products.

You are exactly correct.  Power plants would "mix" coal to burn a specific BTU or emissions content.  For example plants in the midwest would mix Powder River, Colorado and Illinois coal to get the blend they wanted.  It was not uncomoon to have to hold up one coal train to let another go first so they could blend the coal on the piles.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

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