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Updates on Multi-Tracking the Two BNSF Transcons

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Posted by MikeF90 on Saturday, June 3, 2023 9:09 PM

MikeF90
Per an unexpected post from a KS local on TO, the second MT between Ellinor and Chelsea is now fully operational. This leaves the single track segments west of El Dorado Lake as the remainder of the project.

Another YT video has popped up that confirms the Ellinor - Chelsea 2MT segment as being active.  It also shows grading well along between Mulvane - Augusta and ElDorado - Chelsea.

You will see more EB traffic on the 'cutoff' right now / temporarily because of La Junta sub trackwork (Newton).

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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 12:58 PM

MikeF90
MikeF90
Per an unexpected post from a KS local on TO, the second MT between Ellinor and Chelsea is now fully operational. This leaves the single track segments west of El Dorado Lake as the remainder of the project.

You will see more EB traffic on the 'cutoff' right now / temporarily because of La Junta sub trackwork (Newton).

 

  06/14/2023  Update, Note:  This past Sunday, 6/11/2023, I was able to get East towards Augusta.I can confirm that the 'grading' is going well, Rose Hill  East towards Augusta, width grading appears wide enough to accept a third track. Much of the double track appears to be fully operational.  They have also constructed a couple of  large, equiment staging lots. East of SFLake Rd. 

There has also been some heavy constrction excavation equipment moved into a location that is apporox 1 mi east (nor east(?) of the SF Lake Rd RR grade crossing; a construction access road was cut from SFL RD (approx) 1/2 mi north of RR crossing; it seems to be a mie ( +,_(?) backj to a point,that iooks like a creek ir river bank (?) . Possibly,a new, or bridge rebuilding site(?).

I have not been able to get to the Augusta area; the former end of the of the passing track(double tracking(?) West of Augusta.nThe parallel country Road in that area is signed as Thunder Rd.  The single tracked area, extended from  the end of that double siding,  approximately. justb East of the location of that  'bridge construction project', previously,described. .

Sorry, for the description; I am unable to drive myself and must rely on notes taken from a different perspective.. 

 

 

 


 

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Posted by MikeF90 on Thursday, June 15, 2023 7:14 PM

Thanks much for your new observations!

samfp1943
There has also been some heavy constrction excavation equipment moved into a location that is apporox 1 mi east (nor east(?) of the SF Lake Rd RR grade crossing; a construction access road was cut from SFL RD (approx) 1/2 mi north of RR crossing; it seems to be a mie ( +,_(?) backj to a point,that iooks like a creek ir river bank (?) . Possibly,a new, or bridge rebuilding site(?).

I'll guess that this is access for building a new bridge over Fourmile Creek.

RRs usually build new universal crossovers about 10 miles apart and/or midway between existing ones. The next time you are out on the road, look out for two new signal mast pairs about 600 ft apart and near a grade crossing. Indianola Road looks about the right vicinity but of course that's my speculation.

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Posted by MikeF90 on Tuesday, June 27, 2023 7:49 PM

On the Northern transcon a visitor to Sandpoint, ID has reported elsewhere that the east side Amtrak platform has been closed off and removed; this is permanent as the tracks are and will be closer. The existing MT has been shifted in preparation for adding the second MT. 

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Posted by samfp1943 on Tuesday, June 27, 2023 10:34 PM

Southern T-con:Notes; Mike F90}  

Was able to take a ride out to the West side of the Augusta, Ks. area. today.  The area adjacent to the road crossing at 120th St ; ss abutthe curreewnt point of the passing siding and signal stand for currently,m passingtwo trains outof Augusta.  

jGoingnEasdtput of Rose Hill,double tracking ismapparently complete(?).  Signals,apparently, ;have not been installed. Last signal stand is, apparently,

is located just to thenrth(orwest(?) of the current, at grade, crossing on ThundernRd Rd.  The bridge construction over four mile creek,m is not visible, from any road ways.  Inrterstingly, from the area of the grade crossing, on 150th Rd; East of Rose Hill; The contractors have cnstructed, an apoarently,substantial, sub garded pathway(?). Itb isnroughly,the width of a local two lane county road,imedeately, adjacent to the South siide of the double tracked ROW.   It has had trainage tubes installed, and appears to have been solidly compacted,and looks, like it has been done so in prepararion for an asphalt surfacing(?) That preparation is now acrossthe Thunder Rd crossuing and advancing towards the location at approximaytely, signal and siding by 120th St.  Contractors were all kver that area, and we kmet a GREX self-unloading rock train inthat area.  Dignalkcabins are being installed,  but appear to be unwired,(?) at this time.  

My guess is that ll the current bridgingnat four mile creek is. possiblky a doiublke tracked affair, with  another bridge under construction for an apparent third track,   over that creek  location (?)    

Recently, we have noted daily "construction windows" during the week, with both east and westbound trains, train volume has increased mesurably, on week ends.  Speed has also increased as the traffic volume increases.....I'd guess, that high-speed turnout that was installed some timeback, at the west end of Main 3  is really payin dividends (?)...   Sam @ Mulvane.   

 

 


 

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Posted by dpeltier on Wednesday, June 28, 2023 8:48 PM

MikeF90

On the Northern transcon a visitor to Sandpoint, ID has reported elsewhere that the east side Amtrak platform has been closed off and removed; this is permanent as the tracks are and will be closer. The existing MT has been shifted in preparation for adding the second MT. 

 

Technically, the track has been shifted back to its original alignment, before it was shifted over last fall in order to put the new bridge in service.

Now all trains are running through a newly-installed crossover to get to the new bridge.

The track hasn't shifted in front of the Amtrak station yet. There is a modular platform set up to serve the current track (future main 2). When the new track gets put in service (future main 1), the modular platform will scoot back to serve that track.

Dan

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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, August 2, 2023 4:12 PM

Additional Notes: On BNSF's Line between Rose Hill. Ks. area and Agusta,Ks. over weekend of July 30th,2023;

Predictably, traffic patterns seem to fluctuate during week due to ;Construction Windoiws'.   The project at the FourMile Creek, seems to still be ongoing. It is not visible from any public roadway; From the construction road entrance, ;approx 3/4 mile north of the BNSF at grade crossing, on Santa Fe Lake Rd., one is able to see a very large pile of excavated soil, and construction equipment.

Can confirm,the newly graveled subgrade work,seems ready to receive finishing ballast and track(?)..There is a large accumulation of signal related equiupment, stock piled at the work site at the grade crossing at SFL Rd,and ROW.

A signaled siding, (passing?) (MT?) seems to start at a point 300yds East of the single track crossing at Tonkoiway RD(sp?)  and proceeds in an eastward direction across 150th Rd/SFL Rd. It seem to end at a point West of the single tracked crossing at Diamond Rd.( my guess would be a distance of soimething over a mile to mile and a half?)  
 Then single track to the current end of the passing siding, West out of Augusta and ending, just before the road crossingf at 120th st.)
 
Was unablke to find anyone who would taklk about this project.

 

 


 

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Posted by MikeF90 on Wednesday, August 2, 2023 6:19 PM

Next to Sandpoint on the northern transcon, BNSF has announced that bridge maintenance work is complete and that on Aug 6 trackage will be aligned to its final configuration.  https://keepsandpointrolling.com/project-updates/  

Further west near the Spokane River, ROW work is underway for the second MT.

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Wednesday, August 2, 2023 11:45 PM

dpeltier

Technically, the track has been shifted back to its original alignment, before it was shifted over last fall in order to put the new bridge in service.

Now all trains are running through a newly-installed crossover to get to the new bridge.

The track hasn't shifted in front of the Amtrak station yet. There is a modular platform set up to serve the current track (future main 2). When the new track gets put in service (future main 1), the modular platform will scoot back to serve that track.

Dan

Just for clarification:  At the Sandpoint depot: The new No. 1 main track (next to the depot, when constructed) will be the through track on the Kootenai River subdivision.  The new No. 2 main track will be through to/from the MRL.  From the former junction point (Sandpoint Jct.) westward, where will first connection between the two main tracks be located?

--Mark Meyer

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Thursday, August 3, 2023 10:03 AM

Dual crossover is here, on this tangent southeast (railroad west) of the depot.

https://goo.gl/maps/yxpz6HCvbz2qDYx7A

Satellite image not updated.

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Friday, August 4, 2023 1:04 AM

Thanks, Bruce.  Dan did write that this would be the location on a much earlier post, but just needed verification because when I was in Sandpoint a couple of months ago, it just didn't look like there was that much tangent track for a double set of crossovers between the curve and the bridge.  

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Saturday, August 5, 2023 8:59 AM

I have a hunch the new crossovers may end up being a frequent meeting point. Boyer siding, just northwest (railroad east) of the Sandpoint depot, is one of several sidings on that part of the Kootenai River Sub and the ex-GN Hi Line with one or more grade crossings laid across it. The first train to arrive there for a meet usually holds back, off the crossings, and then pulls in at the last moment when the other train is getting close. Not the most efficient way to run a railroad, but necessary.

I think the dispatchers (Boyer West and Boyer East) may prefer to handle more of those Boyer meets on the new 2MT, where no crossings are involved. 

Also, MRL often ties down westbounds (typically coal trains) at Kootenai, just northeast (railroad east) of the depot, when the crew has expired on hours or there's too much congestion ahead. Whether that continues to be a thing under BNSF remains to be seen. I suspect it will.

If so, we can expect to see moments where a westbound comes off the (former) MRL and stops at the new crossovers, an eastbound pulls across one of the bridges and stops there, and a westbound off the Hi Line comes rolling through.

I'll try to catch the name of that new crossover plant tomorrow or Monday.  

 

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Saturday, August 5, 2023 10:43 AM

From what I've been told, there will be no connection or crossover between the mains at what has been Sandpoint Jct. Which makes me wonder if the new crossovers between the depot and the two big bridges will be the new Sandpoint Jct. 

Mark, if you can access the engineering plans, that would solve the mystery.

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, August 5, 2023 6:51 PM

While not specifically about the track or Sandpoint Junction, this link is an excellent short read on the history of the Sandpoint Depot, and of course as with so many railroad-related structures or facilities, some interesting history of the community. It has some excellent historical photos of the area also.

https://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/571

 

 

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Posted by dpeltier on Saturday, August 5, 2023 7:15 PM

kgbw49

While not specifically about the track or Sandpoint Junction, this link is an excellent short read on the history of the Sandpoint Depot, and of course as with so many railroad-related structures or facilities, some interesting history of the community. It has some excellent historical photos of the area also.

https://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/571

You can also read the file on the station at the National Archives here:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/NARAprodstorage/lz/electronic-records/rg-079/NPS_ID/73000682.pdf

Amusingly, the docket consists of:

- The original nomination to the National Register of Historic Places (12 pages, 1973)

- A series of letters from Idaho politicians asking the Feds to remove the station from the NRHS so that it can be removed for the US-95 bypass, interspersed with replies from the Feds explaining over and over again that there is no legal mechanism for removing NRHS entries, and that whether a structure is actually in the NRHS or not has no effect on highway projects (35 pages, 1974-1977). Section 106 and NEPA were pretty new back then, presumably there weren't nearly as many consultants around to advise people on how to get projects through the process.

In the end, of course, the bypass was constructed 30 years later without removing the station, although station access is even more limited than before.

Dan

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 9:52 PM

The new dual crossovers just northwest (railroad east) of the two big bridges are currently named CP35, according to a ranking individual on site. (I did not get close enough to see a trackside marker or identifier on the bungalow.) That name would correspond with it being at milepost 3.5. Which, BTW, is counted westward from Kootenai, ID, on MRL, which had been the division point in NP days.

When BNSF doubletracked between Athol and Cocolalla, ID, in 1997-98, they added a set of X-overs near MP 22.3 that got named CP223. When they doubletracked Rathdrum to Athol in 2017, they added X-overs named Silver, named after the nearby Silverwood theme park. And when they doubletracked Cocolalla to West Algoma in 2019, they added X-overs named Reasor, named after (I was told by BNSF) a railroad employee who was associated with the area.

Some of us around here were disappointed to see the return to numeric naming on this latest installation near Sandpoint. 

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Posted by MikeF90 on Friday, August 11, 2023 10:38 PM

Thanks for the update, Bruce. Here is a little more detail from Railway Age including pictures of the new Amtrak platform:  https://www.railwayage.com/mw/bnsf-completes-sandpoint-jct-connector/

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Saturday, August 12, 2023 10:50 AM

Bruce, any projects planned for the, Spokane, Lakeside and Columbia River Subs?

Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by dpeltier on Saturday, August 12, 2023 10:57 AM

MikeF90

Thanks for the update, Bruce. Here is a little more detail from Railway Age including pictures of the new Amtrak platform:  https://www.railwayage.com/mw/bnsf-completes-sandpoint-jct-connector/

 

Freightwaves: https://www.freightwaves.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/09/sandpoint2.1-Edit-1200x900.jpg

This one has a photo taken by BNSF of a train passing the depot building.

Dan

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Sunday, August 13, 2023 8:06 AM

According to BNSF's investment plan announced earlier this year...

https://www.bnsf.com/news-media/news-releases/newsrelease.page?relId=bnsf-announces-plan-for-2023-capital-investments

...aside from the second main and second bridge currently under development between Irvin and Otis Orchards, WA, the only other big project in the PNW at this time is a siding near Pasco. 

 

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Posted by caldreamer on Sunday, August 13, 2023 10:27 AM

Are there any segments that have to be double tracked on the northern transcon to make it totally double track.

         Thank You In Advance

                   

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Posted by kgbw49 on Sunday, August 13, 2023 11:37 AM

From Minnesota west to the Pacific Coast, BNSF has multiple parallel mainlines that can be used to take pressure off of each other as necessary.

The primary exception to that is Sandpoint to Spokane (aka The Funnel) which is why BNSF has put so much capital investment into double tracking that stretch.

On the east end of the Northern Transcon from Galesburg IL all the way up the Mississippi River to St Paul MN and then to Fargo ND the line is primarily double track. (Most intermodal trains head east at Savanna IL on single track to Aurora and then on to Chicago on the triple-track main.)

From Fargo ND to Minot ND there are two separate mainlines - one direct and one via Grand Forks, ND.

Around Williston ND there are stretches of double track.

From Snowden, MT to Sandpoint ID there are two options across Montana - the former Great Northern and the former Northern Pacific. (Montana Rail Link leased the former NP several decades back and BNSF guaranteed traffic minimums over the line, and now BNSF has bought out the lease effective January 1, 2024.)

There is also some double track on Marias Pass on the former Great Northern.

Here is a link to a detailed BNSF System Map:

https://www.bnsf.com/bnsf-resources/images/ship-with-bnsf/maps-and-shipping-locations/bnsf-ag-map.png

This is not a comprehensive nor detailed list - just some general information to contribute to the answer for caldreamer.

(PS - I suppose Snowden, MT was named after someone, but I have also thought that it might be a wry play on words given the northern location with long winters and short summers - "snowed in".)

 

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Posted by MikeF90 on Sunday, August 13, 2023 8:34 PM

kgbw49
From Snowden, MT to Sandpoint ID there are two options across Montana - the former Great Northern and the former Northern Pacific. (Montana Rail Link leased the former NP several decades back and BNSF guaranteed traffic minimums over the line, and now BNSF has bought out the lease effective January 1, 2024.)

@caldreamer, check out my northern transcon map in my .sig.  Given that BNSF will have control of the former MRL, I would believe that they will adopt a flavor of the UP philosophy - just extend sidings to accomodate 'nofitter' trains. 

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Monday, August 14, 2023 1:24 AM

kgbw49

On the east end of the Northern Transcon from Galesburg IL all the way up the Mississippi River to St Paul MN and then to Fargo ND the line is primarily double track. (Most intermodal trains head east at Savanna IL on single track to Aurora and then on to Chicago on the triple-track main.)

Not quite.  It's nearly 100 miles from Galesburg to Plum River (Savanna) in Illinois - all of it single track CTC.  There are a few stretches of single main track from there to the Twin Cities (bridges over rivers).  There are two routes (both 2 MT CTC or mostly as such) between St. Paul and North Minneapolis (Northtown area).  Between Northtown and Moorhead via Staples, it's all 2 MT CTC except for segments (2.5 miles and 23 miles). The route via Willmar and Breckenridge is also used as an alternate route as needed. 

Between Aurora, IL and Plum River/Savanna, there's a short section of 2 MT CTC either side of Rochelle.

kgbw49

From Fargo ND to Minot ND there are two separate mainlines - one direct and one via Grand Forks, ND.

Around Williston ND there are stretches of double track.

To clarify:  There are two routes between Moorhead and Surrey/Minot: One via Hillsboro and Devils Lake (trains actually don't go into the yard at Grand Forks) and the more direct route via Casselton and New Rockford.  From Surrey (east of Minot) to Williston, it's all 2 MT CTC except over Gassman Coulee bridge west of Minot.  This and upgrading the route via Devils Lake was as result of the Bakken boom.

kgbw49

From Snowden, MT to Sandpoint ID there are two options across Montana - the former Great Northern and the former Northern Pacific. 

Um...no.  The junction point for the ex-GN and ex-NP routes is in Moorhead, Minnesota.  The GN route via Devils Lake or New Rockford to Minot and then west through Williston to Snowden, Montana; The NP route is west from Casselton via Jamestown and Mandan to Wibaux and Glendive, Montana.  There is a connecting route from Snowden to Glendive (ex-GN north of Sidney, ex-NP south).  While it's only 80 miles from Snowden to Glendive and it would make a great route for fluidity and detours, BNSF has yet to do the necessary work to get 50 miles of the route south of Sidney on the ex-NP portion to be good for 143-ton cars.

kgbw49

There is also some double track on Marias Pass on the former Great Northern.

West of Williston on the Northern Transcon, there are short sections of 2 MT CTC at Glasgow and between Havre and Pacific Jct., just west of Havre.  On either side of Rudyard, Montana (40 miles west of Havre), there is 23 miles of 2 MT CTC.   In the 150 miles between Shelby and Whitefish, about 65% of it is 2 MT CTC including about 50 miles on either side of Cut Bank (but not over the bridge), all of the 1.8% eastward grade from Java (east of Essex) to Summit atop Marias Pass, either side of Essex, and east of Columbia Falls to Whitefish.  In Idaho east of Sandpoint, there's also a short stretch of 2 MT CTC eastward from Bonners Ferry.

The ex-NP route from Casselton, ND to Sandpoint doesn't have any signficant sections of two main tracks; the longest is from East Billings through Billings to Laurel.  Additionally, there are some just west of Casselton, either side of Jamestown, either side of Missoula and in some other terminals.  Between DeSmet (Missoula) and Paradise, there are two routes.  The river grade route is CTC and the preferred route; the shorter route via Dixon is dark territory (except for one CTC siding) and features a 2.2% grade in each direction, so it's used mostly for eastward empties trains.

--Mark Meyer

 

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Posted by kgbw49 on Monday, August 14, 2023 6:46 AM

Vermontanan2, thanks for that great breakdown!

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Posted by caldreamer on Monday, August 14, 2023 7:38 AM

Thank you Vermontman:

  That is EXACTLY what I needed to know.  It appears that there is a little single track left on the northern transcon, but not much.  Double tracking would help where there are bottlenecks, but they do have alternate routes

         Caldreamer

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Posted by dpeltier on Monday, August 14, 2023 8:31 AM

Vermontanan2

While it's only 80 miles from Snowden to Glendive and it would make a great route for fluidity and detours, BNSF has yet to do the necessary work to get 50 miles of the route south of Sidney on the ex-NP portion to be good for 143-ton cars.

During the MRL outage earlier this year, loaded coal trains were moved north from Billings to Shelby via the Great Falls route, and empties were then returned by sending them hundreds of miles east to Snowden, then to Glendive via Sidney, and from Glendive to Billings.

(I'm using the term Billings somewhat loosely here.)

As you know, the Sidney line had once been leased to a short line, and was only re-acquired by BNSF due to a surge in oil-related online business.

Dan

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Monday, August 14, 2023 10:57 AM

dpeltier

 

 
Vermontanan2

While it's only 80 miles from Snowden to Glendive and it would make a great route for fluidity and detours, BNSF has yet to do the necessary work to get 50 miles of the route south of Sidney on the ex-NP portion to be good for 143-ton cars.

 

 

During the MRL outage earlier this year, loaded coal trains were moved north from Billings to Shelby via the Great Falls route, and empties were then returned by sending them hundreds of miles east to Snowden, then to Glendive via Sidney, and from Glendive to Billings.

(I'm using the term Billings somewhat loosely here.)

As you know, the Sidney line had once been leased to a short line, and was only re-acquired by BNSF due to a surge in oil-related online business.

Dan

 

For Great Lakes bound coal. I had always hoped the Tongue River connection would've been built. Sending loaded coal via the TR and an upgraded Sidney Line would've made a great shortcut for PRB coal to the docks at Superior, WI, instead of the current routing.

Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by dpeltier on Monday, August 14, 2023 1:52 PM

SD60MAC9500

For Great Lakes bound coal. I had always hoped the Tongue River connection would've been built. Sending loaded coal via the TR and an upgraded Sidney Line would've made a great shortcut for PRB coal to the docks at Superior, WI, instead of the current routing.

One iteration of the TRR would have cut significant mileage off the current routing through Jones Jct near Billings, but there would not have been any more reason to go up the Sidney sub to Snowden than there is today. From Miles City, where the TRR would have ended, the most direct and least crowded route east would have been the same route that coal uses to go east from Miles City today: east through Glendive and Bismarck to Fargo, and from there to the on-line power plants in Minnesota and Wisconsin or to the port at Superior.

Dan

 

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Monday, August 14, 2023 4:54 PM

dpeltier

 As you know, the Sidney line had once been leased to a short line, and was only re-acquired by BNSF due to a surge in oil-related online business.

 

 
The Yellowstone Valley railroad - and it still survives as a switching railroad at Dore, North Dakota (between Fairview and Snowden).  
 
I would encourage anyone to check out the railroad from Williston to Sidney in Google Earth just to take a look at all the Bakken railroad infrastructure, including crude facilities at Trenton, Dore, and East Fairview, as well as numerous other auxiliary tracks for everything else like sand, chemicals, and pipe.  In 2020, a grain elevator on the north edge of Sidney became a shuttle facility.  (All the loaded unit trains operate north to Snowden.)  Sadly, the line's anchor industry, Sidney Sugars (processing sugar beets; once Holly Sugar) closed earlier this year after being in operation for a century.
 
When it was all said and done, the Snowden-Glendive line did get one operational upgrade:  A long siding was constructed at Crane, south of Sidney.
 
--Mark Meyer

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