Covered unit coal trains

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Covered unit coal trains

  • Is anyone aware of any unit coal trains that have the loads covered to prevent dust escaping or contamination in the US?

    If so, what sort of covers do they use?

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  • Milwaukee Road ran a unit coal train for hauling lignite coal with covered cars.  I don't know if that train is still running today with a Milwaukee successor or not.

    The cars had hinged tops and an arm attached to the top.  As the cars went through the loader the arm was pushed to the hinged side, which lifted the top open.

    For dust control on most other coal operations they coal is sprayed with a sort of adhesive just after being loaded.  The adhesive prevents dust from blowing off the coal, but it isn't a strong enough adhesive to cause the coal to clump.

  • I know BNSF runs at least one coal train that is tarped.  I was really disappointed when I saw it because I thought it was an idea I could sell to my carrier.  Why we don't tarp our trains is beyond me since we have such a problem with fouled ballast due to coal dust.  It would certainly be cheaper to use tarps as opposed to spending millions of dollars on undercutting.  Oh well, not my call.

    Lawsuits by homeowners upset about the coal dust could speed up the tarping process.  The railroad has monitoring stations to track the movement of the coal dust because of pending lawsuits.

    MoW employee
  • I would not be surprised if regulators force dust mitigation onto the industry.  It might be accomplished by spraying the load with an anti-dust coating, or covering it.

  • Vern, those cars used on the MILW trains have been sold off and de-roofed for years.  There were 262 of them owned by the Otter Tail Power Company (BSPX 201-462), most of which were sold to the David J. Joseph Company in 1996.  They were later used for "dirty dirt" service for a while, now they're probably in scrap service.

    Pig Farmer, are you sure you aren't seeing those aluminum Bethgons with green rotary-coupler ends that are used for distiller-grain service?  Those are ordinary coal gons, but equipped with the tarps.

    Carl

    Railroader Emeritus (practiced railroading for 46 years--and in 2010 I finally got it right!)

    CAACSCOCOM--I don't want to behave improperly, so I just won't behave at all. (SM)

  • The comment about spraying a sealer (adhesive) on the coal to manage dust reminds me of reading about the "Blue Coal Company" (or something like that) which apparently sprayed the tops of their loads with something blue.  Whether it was sufficient to control dust is unknown.

    While it would certainly add a major step to loading facilities, it occurs to me that washing the coal would tend to remove some dust, if not most.  Methinks that the coal dust could be recovered and formed into lumps not unlike charcoal.

    Of course, dust created by the movement of the coal in the car itself is a different story.

    LarryWhistling
    Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
    Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
    My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
    Come ride the rails with me!
    There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Bucyrus

    I would not be surprised if regulators force dust mitigation onto the industry.  It might be accomplished by spraying the load with an anti-dust coating, or covering it.

     

    There has, in fact, been major regulatory litigation before STB inolving coal dust mitigation measures imposed by BNSF for traffic originating on the PRB, which is still ongoing.  Briefly, in a March 3, 2011 decision, STB accepted BNSF's contentions that coal dust is a serious problem and that the railroad is entitled to require shippers to take measures to suppress these emissions.  However, the Board did not like what they saw as the indefiniteness of the meaures BNSF initially imposed by tariff.  Since then, BNSF has revised its tariff to create "safe harbors" for certain coal dust suppressant technologies.  Litigation over these meaures is ongoing. 

    This all arose from a series of derailments on the PRB coal line caused by ballast foulded by coal dust.

    For furrter information, see the STB decisions at the following web addresses:

    http://www.stb.dot.gov/decisions/readingroom.nsf/fc695db5bc7ebe2c852572b80040c45f/3bdd891ff0ccc1fb8525794f006db7c9?OpenDocument

     http://www.stb.dot.gov/decisions/ReadingRoom.nsf/WEBUNID/79B5382AE20F7930852578480053111F?OpenDocument

     

  • "While it would certainly add a major step to loading facilities, it occurs to me that washing the coal would tend to remove some dust, if not most.  Methinks that the coal dust could be recovered and formed into lumps not unlike charcoal."

    Since on the consignee's end it gets pulverized to a talcum powder consistency, What would this do for efficiency?

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • People who are used to seeing washed, sized, and chunky eastern coal might be surprised to know that PRB coal is just "run of mine", with a large content of just powder, as it is loaded.  That's why dust is such a problem out there.  While filtering out and making briquettes of this dust might seem practical, it would be far easier to put whatever bonding agent that process would use as a spray over the top of a load.

    Carl

    Railroader Emeritus (practiced railroading for 46 years--and in 2010 I finally got it right!)

    CAACSCOCOM--I don't want to behave improperly, so I just won't behave at all. (SM)

  • CShaveRR

    People who are used to seeing washed, sized, and chunky eastern coal might be surprised to know that PRB coal is just "run of mine", with a large content of just powder, as it is loaded.  That's why dust is such a problem out there.  While filtering out and making briquettes of this dust might seem practical, it would be far easier to put whatever bonding agent that process would use as a spray over the top of a load.

      You, sir, are correct.  On windy days we get pelted by the stuff when coal loads go by us.  I remember a very windy day last year up in the PRB when we were traveling our machines.  It was painful getting hit by those little chips of coal.  We dreaded every eastbound we saw coming at us because we knew it was going to hurt.  You come in in the morning and the seat on your machine will have little grains of coal all over it.Grumpy

    MoW employee
  • tdmidget

    "While it would certainly add a major step to loading facilities, it occurs to me that washing the coal would tend to remove some dust, if not most.  Methinks that the coal dust could be recovered and formed into lumps not unlike charcoal."

    Since on the consignee's end it gets pulverized to a talcum powder consistency, What would this do for efficiency?

    Dunno - I guess it would depend if there was a market for such briquettes.  If there's not, then there's no sense doing it.  It was just a thought.

    LarryWhistling
    Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
    Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
    My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
    Come ride the rails with me!
    There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Bucyrus

    I would not be surprised if regulators force dust mitigation onto the industry.  It might be accomplished by spraying the load with an anti-dust coating, or covering it.

    It's actually not just the big,bad G driving the issue..in the Powder River Basin the BNSF/UP consortium has had some huge maintenance headaches over coal dust contaminating the ballast..

    There was at least one in-depth article in "TRAINS" in the last 2-3 years. IIRC, the railroads were proposing passing the added maintenance costs on to the mine operators (who, O.C would pass them onto the utilities buying the coal).

     I believe the upshot was that some of the mines started spraying the top of loaded gons with a substance that makes the dust "stick" better to the load..

    Anyone know more about this?

    "I Often Dream of Trains"-From the Album of the Same Name by Robyn Hitchcock

  • carnej1

    Bucyrus

    I would not be surprised if regulators force dust mitigation onto the industry.  It might be accomplished by spraying the load with an anti-dust coating, or covering it.

    It's actually not just the big,bad G driving the issue..in the Powder River Basin the BNSF/UP consortium has had some huge maintenance headaches over coal dust contaminating the ballast..

    There was at least one in-depth article in "TRAINS" in the last 2-3 years. IIRC, the railroads were proposing passing the added maintenance costs on to the mine operators (who, O.C would pass them onto the utilities buying the coal).

     I believe the upshot was that some of the mines started spraying the top of loaded gons with a substance that makes the dust "stick" better to the load..

    Anyone know more about this?

    I know that if they're doing this it isn't working.  We always have undercutters working where coal moves in high volume because coal dust is constantly fouling the ballast which creates mudholes.  Coal dust= job security for guys like me.

    MoW employee
  • I was unable to locate a earlier thread, but I believe there are also significant benefits to having the cars covered when returnining empty as well.

     

  • carnej1

    Bucyrus

    I would not be surprised if regulators force dust mitigation onto the industry.  It might be accomplished by spraying the load with an anti-dust coating, or covering it.

    It's actually not just the big,bad G driving the issue..in the Powder River Basin the BNSF/UP consortium has had some huge maintenance headaches over coal dust contaminating the ballast..

    There was at least one in-depth article in "TRAINS" in the last 2-3 years. IIRC, the railroads were proposing passing the added maintenance costs on to the mine operators (who, O.C would pass them onto the utilities buying the coal).

     I believe the upshot was that some of the mines started spraying the top of loaded gons with a substance that makes the dust "stick" better to the load..

    Anyone know more about this?

     

    Yes, the railroads have their own stake in eliminating coal dust because of ballast fouling.  But I would not expect the government to overlook the coal dust issue.  It is made to order for government regulation.  So while the railroads fight with the shippers over who should pay for the dust damage to the railroads, the government is likely to step in and force the issue for the purpose of simply eliminating environmental dust.   

    We had a thread on this topic a while back, and there were at least two different car cover systems that we looked at.  In addition to car covers and over-spraying the load with a dust stabilizer, there is also the process of vibrating the load to settle the fines and get them below the coarser material at the surface.