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Updates on Multi-Tracking the Two BNSF Transcons

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Posted by MikeF90 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 3:08 PM

BNSF has announced its 2018 CAPEX plans for California, which highlight a multiyear project adding a third MT on the southern transcon from West Needles to Ibis, and a fourth (!) MT eastward through the city of Needles.

More in the area of 'railfan rumor' reported on another forum, an attendee at a presentation given by a BNSF executive stated that the Cajon sub triple tracking project (Summit to Barstow, ~50 miles) also would restart this year. To be thrifty spenders, I speculate that they will build two ten-mile segments of third main first.

Both of these projects may be impacted by the Trump administrations plans to increase tariffs on Chinese goods, but we'll see.

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 3:28 PM

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Posted by K. P. Harrier on Monday, April 2, 2018 8:34 AM

Interpretive Dilemma

The TRAINS Newswire of March 28, 2018 made reference to the BNSF press release of March 27 about capital expenditures in the State of California, both saying:  On the Needles subdivision, BNSF will begin the multi-year construction of a third main track between West Needles and Ibis.  Capacity through the city of Needles will also be expanded by adding approximately four miles of quadruple main track to the existing triple track.”

About that latter Needles idea itself that press release talked about ADDING four-tracks.  Wow!  What a wide set of tracks, seven altogether!  However, did BNSF only mean adding a single fourth track instead of four more tracks?

A Google aerial suggests it is only adding one more track by the Amtrak stop:

https://goo.gl/maps/d1uuguhv7nt

It was desirable to get feet on the ground out that way, and K.P. did just that Friday, March 30, 2018 with a camera in hand in behalf of the forum.

Is it a Trick in Needles, CA?

For all practical purposes there are ALREADY four tracks from CP NEEDLES east for about four miles!  The problem is the northernmost present fourth track has yard tracks connecting to it.  What BNSF may (“may”) be thinking is laying kind of a signaled fifth track at each end of the yard or somewhere in between so that the fourth track is completely isolated from yard tracks and their un-signaled movements.

What is by the Downtown Depot?

Just west of the depot, or Amtrak stop, are multiple assumedly what are called the westbound control signal (WBCS) heads on cantilever structures, but the CP at M.P. 578.4 is NOT a universal crossovers arrangement, at best only half of one.

The above photo shows the three tracks that presently go through the freeway bridge opening, but those tracks cannot be increased unless the freeway overpass sloping was altered.   The press release seemed to suggest that NO such alteration is in the cards.

Aerials show a further east north fourth track alignment with switches to yard tracks (below photo top background).

No sequence of work was suggested by the press release, but this forrrrumist got the distinct impression that at least three years were involved.  The immediately least costly would appear to be a quick rearranging of that fourth track at the west end of the yard area.  Then, progressively head west, with possibly a new CP being built in the Java area midway on the way to CP IBIS.  CP IBIS is at M.P 592.3.  But, since there presently does not appear to be an official press release on the order of construction, we will just have to wait and see how things develop.

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

Keep an eye on the “Sunset Route Two-Tracking Updates” thread, which will have an important ‘starry, outer space’ perspective …

200 inch telescope at the Mt. Palomar Observatory near Oceanside, CA

… about posts to come.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- K.P.’s absolute “theorem” from early, early childhood that he has seen over and over and over again: Those that CAUSE a problem in the first place will act the most violently if questioned or exposed.

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Posted by guetem1 on Saturday, April 7, 2018 12:51 AM
there ARE fuel pads at Amarillo, on the former FtWorth & Denver by Eastern Ave.
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Posted by MikeF90 on Monday, July 2, 2018 3:15 PM

BNSF has apparently received permission to complete about 2.3 miles of second main track between CP Cocolalla and CP West Algoma on the Kootenai River sub (Northern transcon, south of Sandpoint, ID).

Initial permit application is here: https://www.deq.idaho.gov/media/60181411/westmond-creek-unnamed-tribs-cocolalla-lake-bnsf-railway-401-certification-application-0418.pdf

Locals report grading is in progress. Estimation completion is Dec 2018.

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, July 4, 2018 6:42 PM

I see this proposed section is on a slope betwen a lake and US Route 95.  Is this the most difficult section for double tracking that I believe may have been referred to in a previous post?

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Posted by MikeF90 on Thursday, July 5, 2018 5:08 PM

MidlandMike
Is this the most difficult section for double tracking that I believe may have been referred to in a previous post?

IIRC the main difficulty has been the 'environmental sensitivity' of anything related to the lake and tributary streams. At one time BNSF wanted a bridge over the NE corner of the lake to improve speeds but this met with some pushback. Likewise the highway bubbas wanted to widen US95 using railroad ROW (good luck with that).

The compromise has been to just use the 'uphill' side of the existing ROW for the second track. It may not be 60 mph capable but at least trains will keep moving. Thumbs Up After this is complete only the Spokane River and Lake Pend Oreille bridge upgrades remain for the 'funnel' chokepoint between Spokane and Sandpoint. (note - unremovable italics magically appeared Bang Head).

There are some other difficult and speed restricted areas to the west and east; BNSF has announced that signaling improvements for sidings between Sandpoint and Whitefish will be worked starting with the latest budget. The terrain along the Kootenai River is very scenic but extremely challenging to improve a railroad there.

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by MikeF90 on Tuesday, January 8, 2019 3:09 PM

MikeF90
BNSF has apparently received permission to complete about 2.3 miles of second main track between CP Cocolalla and CP West Algoma on the Kootenai River sub (Northern transcon, south of Sandpoint, ID).

Locals report grading is in progress. Estimated completion is Dec 2018.

Happy New Year!

Any locals care to report on the status of this project near Cocolalla Lake?  TIA.... ................................................................................................................................. ................................................................................................................................. ...................................................... crickets .............................................................

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by MikeF90 on Sunday, February 17, 2019 8:49 PM

Surprised that we haven't heard from Bruce Kelly on my last post ...

At any rate, back to the news. BNSF has published its 2019 Capital Plan summary (that is, no details on 'expansion and efficiency' projects); hopefully more details will emerge.

They have also announced two new 'certified sites' in Galesburg, IL and Clovis, NM on the Southern Transcon where new online business is being encouraged. Doesn't sound like PSR to me YesYes .....

Some 2018 project completions have come to light via Progressive Railroading. New trackage near Belen, NM and Amarillo, TX (southern) and Mt. Pleasant, WA (northern) was brought online. The latter I was not aware of, even more surprising because any changes along the Columbia River ROW are 'environmentally challenging' and very time consuming.

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Tuesday, February 19, 2019 10:14 PM

Mike, my apologies for not responding sooner. Lake Cocolalla (or Cocolalla Lake, depending on which map you reference) is only 30 miles northeast of me, but I haven't been by there since the end of October. At that time, the general grading along the highway side of the existing single main appeared to be done. But nothing more.

Between the heavy rush of traffic going into November and December and then the winter conditions since then, I have my doubts whether the second main could have been laid by now. One source tells me there was no second main there as of a few weeks ago. And if ATCS can be trusted, it's still showing movements between Cocolalla and West Algoma on single track, with signal aspects and switch positions changing as trains come and go.

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Posted by Bruce Kelly on Thursday, February 21, 2019 2:34 PM

I'm told the Cocolalla to W Algoma second main will be laid this spring.

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Posted by MikeF90 on Friday, February 22, 2019 3:07 PM

Bruce Kelly
I'm told the Cocolalla to W Algoma second main will be laid this spring

Thank you for your responses. No apology necessary; winter and other issues often get in the way of posting here ....

I surmised that the track laying would be deferred to construction season, sounds like Minnesota Wink.

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by guetem1 on Saturday, February 23, 2019 1:11 AM
are you sure you got your symbols right? pass-kICK GENERALLY refers to Pasco - Kansas City, PTLKCK would be pronounced "Piddle-Kick" I used to dispatch trains into Minot and my ex used to be a chief in the Northwqest Zone
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Posted by guetem1 on Saturday, February 23, 2019 1:20 AM
all coal traffic from the Powder River Basin fuels and inspects at Amarillo fuel pad is on the east end of the yard just before the Red River Valley sub
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Posted by MikeF90 on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 3:30 PM

BNSF has released a few state-specific details of its 2019 plans.  The only expansion projects I've found so far are building two miles of second MT near Wishram, WA (northern transcon) and a "multi-year project to install double track on portions of the Emporia Subdivision" (southern transcon in KS). The longest single track section of the latter is between CP 1271 and CP East El Dorado (MP 171), about 44 miles.

Smaller, ongoing projects are often not mentioned. Perhaps the three mile single track section near Alva, OK needs some reconnaissance when construction season starts.

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by kgbw49 on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 7:20 PM

It would appear that the quadruple track in Belen and Needles are related to the crew change points. At Belen it is also related to the climb out of the river valley, but with 4 tracks, one can stack quite a few trains on two of the tracks to wait for a re-crew while still having double track capacity open. And one could also stack lower priority trains on the additional tracks while allowing higher priority trains to pass them.

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Posted by K. P. Harrier on Monday, March 4, 2019 6:20 AM

If followers of this thread will study aerials of Belen, New Mexico, they will find at least EIGHT crew change tracks, four westbound on the north end of town, and four eastbound on the south end, positioned for the trains direction of travel.

Westbound:

https://goo.gl/maps/H9GXA6ZeKo12

Eastbound:

https://goo.gl/maps/jVMHr9gUQeB2

At Winslow, AZ and Needles, CA trains stack up for changing crews.  It has to be wondered why hotshots go 70 M.P.H. just to sit a long time trying to make relief at Winslow and Needles.  They could save much fuel if trains were limited to 30 M.P.H. across the territory, and stagger arrivals.

My colleague was actually in Needles very recently, and he saw no track work or grading west of town up to Ibis.  BNSF really should rethink the current additional track efforts before too much money is spent, maybe relocating the relief spot, so trains have a NUMBER of tracks to utilize for reliefs and quickly move on, as at Belen.  THAT is more like the Transcon, and not a bunch of trains stacked up unproductively!

Of course, stacked up trains waiting reliefs are symptomatic of ‘pay per run’ operations.  Who cares if crews waste time sitting around waiting to be relieved.  Nobody is accountable, and management seems to be too incapable for some reason to see that!  All they see is costs they can cut.  IF, and the following statement should not be construed as promoting it, but if crews were paid by the hour, magically such extra relief tracks would spring up seemingly out of thin air!  There, then, appears to be a flaw in management’s present thinking, and probably even top dog Mr. Buffet hasn’t figured THAT out yet!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- K.P.’s absolute “theorem” from early, early childhood that he has seen over and over and over again: Those that CAUSE a problem in the first place will act the most violently if questioned or exposed.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, March 4, 2019 5:12 PM

Isn't Belen a refueling stop?

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Posted by diningcar on Monday, March 4, 2019 6:40 PM

Yes, and a crew change stop. But, significantly, it is a train inspection stop where the train is walked on both sides. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, March 4, 2019 9:39 PM

diningcar
Yes, and a crew change stop. But, significantly, it is a train inspection stop where the train is walked on both sides. 

1000 Mile air brake inspection?

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, March 7, 2019 8:57 PM

You can see the many refueling tanks on KP's map.The need to save some time for track work might be why the trains are stacked up?  Awaiting release of track by MOW?

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, March 9, 2019 8:16 AM

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Sibley+Railroad+Bridge/@39.1798997,-94.1816013,867m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x87c1093c5f054fb5:0x14df44822633ea28!8m2!3d39.1798997!4d-94.1794126

One of two remaining single-track bottlenecks on the Southern Transcon - the massive bridge over the Missouri River at Sibley, MO. This will be an expensive gap to close.

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, March 9, 2019 9:45 AM

Interesting video at the end of this article by BNSF on how changes at Amarillo increase capacity.

https://www.bnsf.com/news-media/railtalk/service/southern-transcon.html

 

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, March 9, 2019 9:54 AM

Here is the other single track gap on the BNSF Southern Transcon - the crossing of the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River at Alva OK.

interestingly, there has been a lot of grading completed on the Oklahoma side of the river, including what looks like sub-base laid on a substantial portion of the graded section.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Alva,+OK+73717/@36.8129481,-98.6627411,415m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x87af6fe53e8e4b29:0x5507c579d3a68a71!8m2!3d36.8050308!4d-98.6664737

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, March 9, 2019 11:14 PM

BNSF indicates that they will be installing some double track on portions of the Emporia Subdivision between Wellington, KS and Kansas City, ostensibly to handle growing intermodal traffic.

http://www.bnsf.com/news-media/news-releases/bnsf-capital-program-kansas-2019.html

I wonder if that means that they plan to operate fewer trains through Wichita on the "paired main lines" section of the Southern Transcon?

Or perhaps they will route merchandise trains through Wichita both ways and intermodal will go both ways on the Emporia Subdivision.

Time will tell and it will be interesting to see what happens!

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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, March 10, 2019 9:22 PM

kgbw49
I wonder if that means that they plan to operate fewer trains through Wichita on the "paired main lines" section of the Southern Transcon?

They might downgrade the line thru Newton, so more problems for the SW Chief.

kgbw49
Or perhaps the will route merchandise trains through Wichita both ways and intermodal will go both ways on the Emporia Subdivision.

The line thru Newton follows the Cottonwood River (ie. "water level route") thru the Flint Hills, whereas the line thru El Dorado goes over the hills.  I wonder if that might favor your scenario?

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Posted by rdamon on Friday, March 15, 2019 3:58 PM

Found this ...  not sure if it was shared previously ...

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:18 AM

It will be intereating to see if the last two bridge projects at Alva, OK and Sibley, MO ever get the green light for double tracking.

I know that they take a long time with all the permitting required, and they have to fight for capital with all the other priorities.

Of the two, it seems the one at Alva over the Salt Fork Arkansas River is closest, with the approach grading on the north side already completed.

Alva is just northeast (railroad east) of Avard, OK where traffic for St. Louis, Memphis, Birmingham and Atlanta breaks off the Transcon on former Frisco trackage.

 

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Posted by MikeF90 on Saturday, March 16, 2019 4:17 PM

MidlandMike
They might downgrade the line thru Newton, so more problems for the SW Chief.

Not likely; BNSF is getting good value out of the LaJunta sub for rerouting due to upstream flooding.

kgbw49
It will be interesting to see if the last two bridge projects at Alva, OK and Sibley, MO ever get the green light for double tracking.

I think the Alva bridge project is 'shovel ready' since it was suspended around 2016, presumably to use the budget for the Ft. Sumner, NM bridge and second MT.  I would be surprised if the Sibley crossing upgrade made any progress until the similarly massive Lake Pend Orielle bridge (Sandpoint, ID) build is well underway.

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon

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Posted by kgbw49 on Sunday, March 31, 2019 10:49 PM

Sort of related, I went down to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha today 03/31/19) and took the Wisconsin side because the highway hugs the BNSF Northern Transcon for a majority of the distance between Prescott, WI and Nelson, WI where you cross to Wabasha.

It is two-main-track territory. Main 2 (which is predominantly eastbound traffic under normal conditions) was a parking lot, with 9 trains parked on it with no crews. Main 1 was functioning as a single track mainline, with traffic passing in both directions.

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