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Refineries and Tank Cars

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  • From: Tulsa Oklahoma
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Refineries and Tank Cars
Posted by N737AA on Thursday, September 7, 2006 2:50 AM

I am wanting to build a refinery but am not sure what products are moved by rail and what products are moved via pipeline.  I live in Tulsa, so I can see two large refineries, but don't have a clue how they work, what they actually produce etc.  I see lots of tank cars moving in and out of them daily but wonder what exactly is in them.

My initial thought was oil in and gas out.  I understand there are oil pipelines and gasoline pipelines.  What exactly are the tank cars for?  The refineries here move many, many tank cars each day.

I read the artical a few months ago in MRR, but it was very general in how/what products are moved in the tank cars.

Anyone know the answer, please let me in on it so I can set up my industry correctly.

My layout is set in the late 90's to today.  I have a 2' x 4' area for the refinery, but only plan to model the loading areas with 3 or 4 loading tracks and 1 or 2 storage tracks and of cours the sheds, piping and storage tanks that would be near the loading tracks.

Mike in Tulsa

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Posted by Dave-the-Train on Thursday, September 7, 2006 3:36 AM

A lot will depend on era.  Oops! Late 90s

It doesn't really matter what's in the tanks... if you check more closely you will probably see that they run in blocks of one company and, probably, one reporting mark... then you will find that there are exceptions.

If you could get close enough you would see codes on the red warning diamonds which you could get translated... but you probably wouldn't be able to read these on your models (what scale are you)... and you might easily meet up with security / police / Homeland Security.  People are a bit nervous these days.

Your best bet is to look for Walthers and MDC/Roundhouse tank cars for your era.  You'll find some of Walthers modern tanks come in 1 and 2 packs and they re-run the popular ones occassionally... but you'll often struggle to get more than 6 in one reporting mark with different numbers.  The MDC 50' modern tanks mostly seem to have come in single numbers occasionally... but every so often they changed the number... so, if you hunt around you can find different ones.  they also did TankTrain cars in lots of numbers but these cars can be a real problem to put together.

Both Walthers and Atlas do long 33,000gal tankcars for LPG.

You could try to match what you see at the refinery with pics in the on line catalogues.

 Have fun (don't get arrested) Tongue [:P]

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, September 7, 2006 7:24 AM
It depends on the location of the refinery and its product mix.  Most of what is produced by refineries is transportation fuel -- diesel fuel and gasoline -- which has a final destination, for the most part, of a service station or truck stop.  Thus refineries ship most of their product via pipeline to distribution terminals for trucking to final destination, and truck to local customers.  Some diesel fuel and gasoline moves by rail to distant distribution terminals that are not pipeline served.  As example, most of the Western Slope of Colorado and Eastern Utah is not reached by pipeline.  The Conoco and Total refineries in Denver ship 40-70 cars daily of diesel fuel and gasoline to two distribution terminals in Grand Junction, from where final transportation is by truck.  But some fuel also comes into this market by truck from the BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, and Flying J refineries in North Salt Lake City, the Sinclair refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming, and the independent refinery at Roosevelt, Utah. 

Many refineries also produce LPG, most of which moves by rail to distribution terminals.  Other product streams that move mostly by rail include petroleum coke (moving in covered hoppers). 

Petrochemical feed stocks ideally move by pipeline to an adjacent petrochemical plant, but many refineries that are specialized for producing feed stocks move them by tankcar to a variety of destinations.  KCS, for instance, moves about 100 cars a day between refineries and petrochem plants in Beaumont, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Refineries producing petrochem feed stocks are generally located in the Gulf Coast, upper Midwest, and New Jersey, where there are industrial consumers.  Western and northern refineries haven't got any customers for petrochemicals for the most part, except for some plastics precursors on the West Coast.

In broad terms, if a tankcar-carried commodity moves less than 200 miles, it moves by truck, and if the customer is more than 1,000 miles away it doesn't move at all; the customer finds a closer source.

With your situation you could model an LPG loading track, a petrochem feedstock loading track, and two diesel fuel/gasoline loading tracks.  The storage tracks would ideally on the prototype be serial with the loading tracks (not parallel) to reduce the amount of switching time.

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Posted by Dave-the-Train on Thursday, September 7, 2006 9:44 AM

What are petrochem feedstocks please?  You don't mean that Ronald MacD's steers are fed hydrocarbons do you?

I was wondering about plastic pellet cars?  What's petroleum coke?  A coal-type fuel made from sludge or the raw material for that drink in a funny shaped bottle?  (have you seen what it does to a tooth overnight)? (I reckon that's got to be chemical...)

Thanks for the info!

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, September 7, 2006 1:29 PM
 Dave-the-Train wrote:

What are petrochem feedstocks please?  You don't mean that Ronald MacD's steers are fed hydrocarbons do you?

I was wondering about plastic pellet cars?  What's petroleum coke?  A coal-type fuel made from sludge or the raw material for that drink in a funny shaped bottle?  (have you seen what it does to a tooth overnight)? (I reckon that's got to be chemical...)

Thanks for the info!



Petroleum coke is nearly pure carbon, solid, derived from petroleum distallation and cracking residues, which is used for fuel or in the manufacture of various things such as carbon-arc electrodes and batteries depending upon its source stocks and processing.  It is not suitable for blast furnaces for smelting iron because it is too soft.  It can also be relatively high in sulfur content.  Petroleum coke is a "last-chance" product from a refinery, from heavy (long-chain) fractions of the crude or intermediate processes that are uneconomical to form into high-value products such as gasoline or diesel fuel.  Pet coke comes in varieties such as green coke, calcined coke, and needle coke.  Refineries with heavy, sour feedstocks are more likely to make pet coke than refineries with light, sweet feedstocks (sweet = low-sulfur; sour = high-sulfur; weight refers to viscosity and specific gravity).

Refineries as a rule don't make plastic pellets.  Those come from petrochemical plants.  However, petrochem plants are often co-located with refineries.  Plastic pellets are shipped in high-cube covered hoppers.

Petrochem feedstocks are generally liquids or gases produced by a refinery, such as ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, and xylene, and their derivatives.  They are used to make plastics, fertilizer, pesticides, insecticides, synthetic fibers, and dyes, and a lot of other things, too.

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Posted by ndbprr on Thursday, September 7, 2006 2:27 PM
I think you need to do some reading and observing for a start.  Wikipedia and other on line services should be able to give you a better understanding of what goes on in a refinery.  While smaller than steel mills modern refineries still cover vast areas of real estate and are difficult to model well.  As to what goes out of one read the side of tank cars the next time you are railfanning.  If it isn't vegetable oil or corn syrup there is a good chance it came from a refinery. 
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, September 7, 2006 2:42 PM
Very few tankcars are permanently marked as to contents.  The placard gives in some cases the specific commodity, and in all cases the commodity group, which will probably be good enough for your purposes.  A guide to placards is here.  The full text is 2.8M, by the way.

http://hazmat.dot.gov/pubs/erg/gydebook.htm

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Posted by ericsp on Thursday, September 7, 2006 9:36 PM

Nobody mentioned asphalt, sulfur, or ammonia. Not that sulfur or ammonia seem to be major byproducts of refineries.

Also, the refineries out here I have seen ship petroleum coke ship it in open top hoppers. It seems like I heard MRL bought their open top hoppers to haul petroleum coke out of the Exxon's Billings refinery. It seems like calcined coke it shipped in covered hoppers. I don't know about in other places, but is seems like out here the calciners are seperate from the refineries.

Have a look at http://www.sjr.com/ for some other products. Also, look over various petroleum company websites.

You could also model a natural gas liquids plant (fractionator). I have seen them ship LPG, natural gasoline, liquid hydrocarbon not otherwise specified (natural gas condensate?), and pentane in tankcars.

"No soup for you!" - Yev Kassem (from Seinfeld)

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Posted by ericsp on Friday, September 8, 2006 12:16 AM

 1435mm wrote:

Refineries as a rule don't make plastic pellets.  Those come from petrochemical plants.  However, petrochem plants are often co-located with refineries.  Plastic pellets are shipped in high-cube covered hoppers.

The refineries that are in the same complex as petrochemical plants that make plastics would be way to huge to model, probably even in Z scale. I would guess the smallest one is the BP (formerly ARCO) refinery and ARCO Polypropylene (or whatever it is called now) in Carson, CA. It appears to be a little less than 1 square mile, which would require approximately 3683 square feet to model in HO scale (about 60.69' x 60.69' if it is square) or 576 square feet in Z scale (if I remember the scale correctly, 1:220).  If you have more space than you know what to do with, you could model the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge complex.

 1435mm wrote:

Petrochem feedstocks are generally liquids or gases produced by a refinery, such as ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, and xylene, and their derivatives.  They are used to make plastics, fertilizer, pesticides, insecticides, synthetic fibers, and dyes, and a lot of other things, too.

S. Hadid

Don't forget naphtha. LPG is also used as a feedstock. To be technical, the feedstocks you listed are also considered petrochemicals, since (if they were 100% pure) they are each a single molecule type. Naphtha and LPG both contain various types of molecules.

Also, ethanol coming into the refinery in tankcars is common out here. Of course, in the 1990s, it would have been methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).

I will also occasionally see some cars carrying gasoline. Just a few days ago I saw probably about half a dozen of them. Probably taking non-CARB gasoline out of state or bringing CARB gasoline into the state. These are usually the 33,000 gallon pressure cars. I also used to see 30,000 general service cars bringing in racing gasoline. I have not seen these in about a year. I was just after Rita they stopped coming and I heard they came from that area, so perhaps the plant was damaged and the company found a new supplier.

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Posted by ericsp on Friday, September 8, 2006 12:43 AM

 Dave-the-Train wrote:
It doesn't really matter what's in the tanks... if you check more closely you will probably see that they run in blocks of one company and, probably, one reporting mark... then you will find that there are exceptions.

Most of the cars will probably be leased from various different leasing companies. Also, with all of the mergers, most oil companies have multiple reporting marks for their own cars, although they seem to be standarding on just one or two.

 Dave-the-Train wrote:
If you could get close enough you would see codes on the red warning diamonds which you could get translated... but you probably wouldn't be able to read these on your models (what scale are you)... and you might easily meet up with security / police / Homeland Security.  People are a bit nervous these days.

What is the world coming to when even the figures on your own layout harass you?Wink [;)] It is almost as bad as a shruberer being mugged.

 Dave-the-Train wrote:
Your best bet is to look for Walthers and MDC/Roundhouse tank cars for your era.  You'll find some of Walthers modern tanks come in 1 and 2 packs and they re-run the popular ones occassionally... but you'll often struggle to get more than 6 in one reporting mark with different numbers.  The MDC 50' modern tanks mostly seem to have come in single numbers occasionally... but every so often they changed the number... so, if you hunt around you can find different ones.  they also did TankTrain cars in lots of numbers but these cars can be a real problem to put together.

Both Walthers and Atlas do long 33,000gal tankcars for LPG.

You could try to match what you see at the refinery with pics in the on line catalogues.

 Have fun (don't get arrested) Tongue [:P]

I have not seen the MDC tankcars in a while. Hopefully Athearn will release them as Blue Box kits soon, unfortunately they are not on the current production list. Of course, the MDC tankcars are not models of any particular prototype. Although the Tank Train cars do exist, the MDC model is not an accurate representation of them. It is a pain to cut those walkways from their sprues.

Some other suggestions are Athearn's new ethanol tankcars. Also, you can do some kitbashing of the Athearn 62' tankcar and get a fairly good looking modern tankcar. Of course if you do the minimal kitbashing to make it a modern car, it has no prototype either.

"No soup for you!" - Yev Kassem (from Seinfeld)

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Posted by N737AA on Friday, September 8, 2006 1:41 AM

Wow, lots of info!  I appreciate it guys, I really do.

I cannot get close enough to the tank cars to get the DOT numbers off of them. Here is a link to a aerial photo of the refinery I am talking about.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=1700+s+union+ave+Tulsa+Oklahoma&ie=UTF8&z=12&ll=36.149519,-96.008835&spn=0.137227,0.343323&t=h&om=1

The have a number of loading sheds on the property.  There is some sort of holding yard on the property as well.  The BNSF yard is adjacent to this refinery and I have seen the yard jobs that move long strings of cars to the holding yard and understand this is done a couple times a day.  The refinery has their own power that moves the tank cars from that yard to the various loading sheds.

The most common type of tank car I see is no longer than 50-55 feet.  So I don't think they are loading LPG, but, I am not sure what cars can take that, so I profess that I just don't know what is in them.  For that matter, I am not sure if they are loading or unloading the cars in the sheds.

My idea was to have two loading sheds with two tracks each that could hold 4-6 50'(or so) tank cars each for a total of 16-24 loads or spots for this industry.  The holding tracks are going to be 2 tracks capable of holding 8-10 cars each thus close to the capacity of the loading shed tracks.  This is planned to be a large industry that will have its own train assigned to it (it is quite aways from my yard), and will require 3 trains in a 24hr period.  Like I said, a large industry producing a lot of loads. In fact my layout is based on the concept of having a few large industries instead of a bunch of smaller ones.

I am in total agreement with the fact that I need to become more educated on the industry to build a good representation of one on my layout.  There is pleanty of general information out there on how oil is refined, but, not much specific info on how and what is transported in rail cars.  I am sure it is out there, but, I haven't found it.  Even the artical MRR did a few months back was very general in nature, I understand why as well. 

Could it also be that it may not matter?  I doubt many people really know the ins'and outs' of a refinery much less what is really in those tank cars.  So part of me says stick to my plan build the loading sheds and storage tracks and go for it.  I can tell from the refinery here in town that what I recognize as the main part of the refinery is a long distance from the loading sheds, so I know I don't have to build the refracting towers and everything that goes with that.  I  believe I can build some buildings with lots of piping in and around them, as well as storage tanks and leave it at that and would be a good representation of what I can see track side here in town.

As far as cars go, I have a bunch of the MDC tank cars as well as some Atlas and the new Athearn etheanol cars.  I do not have any of the Walther's tank cars (well yes I do, but they are the 16k corn syrup cars) yet, but they look much like what I see trackside, so I don't believe there will be an issue with getting more realistic cars other than the small fortune it may run.  I estimate I will need around 50 or so before it is all done.  Sounds like a lot, but they go quick when you assign waybills to them!

Keep the comments coming, I have already learned more here than I have in my other research.  Now if I could find one of those Sinclair Petroleum employee's..................

Mike in Tulsa

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Posted by ericsp on Friday, September 8, 2006 1:55 AM

That big building to the right of the green arrow is probably a lube plant. So those cars are probably carrying various lubricating oils.

The black area up top is the coker. It looks like those hoppers are open top, but I cannot tell for sure. I use Walthers 4-bay (kit) and Bowser open top hoppers for the coke plant on my layout.

50' to 55' cars will usually carry commodities such as asphalts, lube oils, gas oils, heavy fuel oils, heavy cut naphthas. Note that some of these have flash points high enough that they do not require placards. Asphalt usually gets a white placard with HOT or 3257 on it. Other placards that are common on these size cars are 1202 (fuel oil) and 1993 (flammable liquid not otherwise specified). Santa Fe and Southern Pacific owned some tankcars in this size range to haul diesel fuel.

If you do not have any industries for the corn syrup tankcars and the refinery processes sour crude, repaint the corn syrup tankcars for sulfur.

Also, this Trains magazine may be of interest http://index.mrmag.com/tm.exe?opt=I&MAG=TRN&MO=10&YR=1999.

"No soup for you!" - Yev Kassem (from Seinfeld)

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Posted by ericsp on Friday, September 8, 2006 3:12 AM

Here is a list of potential loads, http://www.sinclairoil.com/msds/index.htm.

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Posted by leighant on Friday, September 8, 2006 8:47 AM

Texas Railroad Commission commodity statistics for 1950s show only very small proportion of rail traffic used for moving crude to refineries (most by pipleine)

Rails moved many products OTHER THAN oil and gasoline to and from refineries...

 

sulphuric acid used in refining (special acid tank cars)

“spent” sulphuric acid returned to chem. plant for recycling

 

tetraethyl lead antiknock compound used 1920s up until time leaded gasoline was outlawed

several plants in Houston area.

(see history of ETHYL Corporation)

 

industrial gases such as acetylene, Argon, Carbon Dioxide, Neon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, etc. (sometimes in XT box tank cars, ie. tank inside boxcar body.

 

Gulf sold ammonia produced from petroleum to Spencer Chemical of Kansas City for use in manufacturing fertilizer.  Mentioned in news story about proposed Gulf purchase of Spencer, Time magazine Sept.20, 1963 p.92

Note: Anhydrous ammonia classified as "non-flammable gas"

 

Phillips petroleum brand of olefin polymers, to make MARLEX™ plastic, Business Week Nov.12, 1955 p.11.  Major initial use of product was making HULA HOOPS!

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------

Some products of SHELL CHEMICAL CORP.

Isopropyl alcohol expanded, used for acetone

Acetone used to produce methyl isobutyl carbinol and methyl

isobutyl ketone, solvents used in lacquer

Plant completed in 1948 made acetone into hexylene glycol, used

in hydraulic fluid and printing inks.

Synthetic glycerine used in paint, varnish, explosives,

cellophane.

Synthetic ethyl alcohol  to ethyl chloride  used in manufacture

of tetraethyl lead antiknock compound

Glycerine byproduct- epoxy resins

per 

Enterprise in Oil, A History of Shell in the United States

 

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Posted by edblysard on Friday, September 8, 2006 8:29 PM

Mike in Tulsa...

You have a couple of good responses on the Railroad forums....

Including one from a guy who builds refineries.

See Mr Murphy's response.

Ed

23 17 46 11

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Posted by N737AA on Tuesday, September 12, 2006 1:38 AM

I appreciate everyone's input.  The knowledge available here is awsome.  I will continue my research, I have a better sense as where to start thanks to everyone's help.

 

Mike in Tulsa

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 7:26 PM

Mike

 

Contact me directly off forum at PNWRMNM@YAHOO.COM.  I am a former Bureau of Explosives Inspector and still remember my tank cars pretty well.

 

Mac

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Posted by grizlump9 on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 7:55 PM

 when the New York Central served the Shell Oil Co. refinery at Wood River / Roxana Illinois we hauled a lot of petroleum lube oil and transmission fluid in tank cars.  believe it or not a lot of the lube oil went to Rouseville and Oil City Pennsylvania. (guess who they were selling it to)  the transmission fluid went to Hydra-Matic div. of GM at Ypsilanti Michigan. don't overlook box cars loaded with packaged products like motor oil in cans or drums.  Amoco and Clark also gave us a lot of traffic from that area although we did not switch their refineries.  I think Clark had a coking unit and we also got a few tank cars of molten sulfur but i don't remember where they all went.  The Shell Wood River refinery was one of the largest around and we had a yard engine stationed inside the plant that just served the switching needs of that one refinery.  it worked second trick only (3-11 pm)  the railroad also had a clerk full time at Shell to take care of the switch lists, billing, etc. i never saw any crude oil inbound, it came to the refineries by pipeline.  with the nation's pipeline system pretty much connecting everything by now, any bulk product will usually go out that way.  different products can be moved through the same pipeline seperated by big rubber balls called "pigs" without cross contamination. but lube oil, asphalt and the like are mostly shipped via rail or truck since they represent a small portion of a refinery's output and are not candidates for terminal operations like gasoline and heating oil. (diesel fuel without the road tax)   barges are also a major competitor to rail transportation if the refinery is located on a navigable waterway.

grizlump 

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Posted by RedGrey62 on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 10:00 PM

Some of the inbound tank cars could contain ethanol for E10/E85 or food derived oil for bio-diesel (B20)mixing.  I think it would be refinery dependent.

Rick

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Posted by ericsp on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 1:53 AM

"No soup for you!" - Yev Kassem (from Seinfeld)

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Posted by cv_acr on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 3:55 PM

Dave-the-Train
It doesn't really matter what's in the tanks... if you check more closely you will probably see that they run in blocks of one company and, probably, one reporting mark... then you will find that there are exceptions.

Except that tank cars are generally designed for particular commodities, although some liquids like gasoline and diesel fuel will be shipped in general service tank cars.

General Service tank cars: (liquid fuels)

http://www.atlasrr.com/HOFreight/ho20ktank1.htm

http://www.atlasrr.com/HOFreight/ho235gallontankcar.htm

http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/932-7251

http://www.athearn.com/Products/Default.aspx?ProdID=ATH73911

Pressurized tank cars for LPG (Propane - pressurized gas)

http://www.atlasrr.com/HOFreight/ho33ktank1.htm

http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/932-27312

Molten sulphur: (byproduct from sulphur impurities in the crude oil)

http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/932-7237

http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/932-7205

Ethanol: (modern era for blending with gasoline)

http://www.athearn.com/Search/Default.aspx?SearchTerm=30K+Ethanol+Tank+RTR&CatID=THRF

 

Most of the inbound raw product (crude oil) will come by pipeline. I'm not sure that crude is ever actually shipped by rail. Refineries are also often located on waterways and large amounts of their output of diesel, gasoline etc. is shipped by boat. (To major distribution centres and other refineries).

Note that refineries do sell product to each other for mixing so loads of fuel could come both in and out of the same refinery. (A lot of this would be transferred by ship, as above)

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Posted by ericsp on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:06 PM

Some crude oil is still shipped by tankcars. The most famous example is the Oil Cans.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/refinery_capacity_data/current/table11.pdf 

Also, it is not unusual for gasoline and natural gasoline to be shipped in 33,000 gallon, pressure tankcars.

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Posted by N737AA on Thursday, January 29, 2009 4:22 PM

ericsp

Would the open hoppers be a empy in load out situation?  The birds eye view really gives great detail, I had no idea the coker was there as the Arkansas river paralells that side of the refinery and is not accessable at all.  I love the arial photo sites for research.

This thread was initiated by myself quite sometime ago and since then I have steadily been adding to my tank car fleet with mostly Atlas and Walthers 17k and 23k cars, but have also decided to add 33k LPG cars to the fleet so I can represent LPG production.  While I don't see any in the referenced photo's at this particular refinery in Tulsa, I am sure it would fit in the operating scheme just fine.  My original goal of modeling a large industry is still on track, but I have pulled by my initial plan to model approximately 8-10 loads per day because the original plan would have overwhelmed my layout operating scheme.

 

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Posted by ericsp on Thursday, January 29, 2009 8:56 PM

N737AA

ericsp

Would the open hoppers be a empy in load out situation?

 

Yes 

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Posted by N737AA on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 1:12 PM

  That explains the occasional hopper I see in the General Merchandise trains on the BNSF in and out of Tulsa.

Now all I have to do is compress all of it to fit.  Still working on the track plan for that area so far all I have is a long spur that the cars are setout on.

 

Mike in Tulsa Central States Cherokee Sub Central States Railway - Photo Album

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