Trains.com

Updates on Multi-Tracking the Two BNSF Transcons

60048 views
341 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Monday, May 20, 2019 2:35 PM

I discovered a couple of YT videos showing the impressive Lake Pend Orielle bridge that BNSF is planning to augment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2Nu7SJvE_Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojPlhBeiCJA

So far I have not found any recent status reports on Kootenai Sub signaling upgrades - about 11 sidings were still unbonded at last count.

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

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 584 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Monday, May 20, 2019 3:32 PM

Mike, on the 11th I did some shooting at the bridge. Grading is still under way along Lake Cocolalla. No track for second main laid there yet.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 584 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:57 AM

Track-laying and ballast dumping for the second main along Lake Cocolalla began last week. West Algoma is gone and a new control point, CP Reasor, has been added just west of there. BNSF tells me the name is in honor of a railroad family who once lived in the area. In just a matter of weeks, the Funnel will be solid 2MT from Otis Orchards, WA, to just short of the Lake Pend Oreille bridge at East Algoma. 

Wife and I spent Saturday in Sandpoint, photographing 31 trains between 6am and 8pm. That's not counting the 5 or 6 trains we passed during the 45 minute drive north and likewise on the way home, plus the half-dozen or more trains that rolled through Sandpoint during the high-sun middle hours of the day when we grabbed lunch and enjoyed some non-camera time at the beach.

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Monday, July 29, 2019 4:00 PM

Thanks for the status update, Bruce!

Bruce Kelly
Wife and I spent Saturday in Sandpoint, photographing 31 trains between 6am and 8pm. That's not counting the 5 or 6 trains we passed during the 45 minute drive north and likewise on the way home, plus the half-dozen or more trains that rolled through Sandpoint during the high-sun middle hours of the day when we grabbed lunch and enjoyed some non-camera time at the beach.

That's an astonishing amount of traffic, is it typical for this time of year?

Someone Whistling needs to sponsor a webcam on this segment of the northern transcon; the southern is well covered.

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

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 584 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Monday, July 29, 2019 4:57 PM

Mike, this part of BNSF often out-performs the national trend. It does have its share of intermodal (nowhere near what the southern Transcon handles) but is also blessed with a wide variety of domestic carload traffic, bulk ag traffic (mostly grain), crude bound for terminals up and down the west coast, and coal bound for two PNW powerplants as well as for export (the latter via B.C. ports).

Trade wars or not, peak season/fall rush in the PNW typically begins in late July, everything from harvested grain moving west to back-to-school and holiday (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) merchandise moving east. It gets heaviest during October-November. To be fair, without a month's worth of lineups at my fingertips, I can only give you anectdotal observations from the Funnel. I live within eyesight and earshot of West Hauser, and with clear scanner reception at home that ranges from well west of Spokane to slightly east of Sandpoint. Some days and nights lately have been slower or busier than others. What I witnessed last Saturday at Sandpoint was typical of recent years, but seemed oddly abundant for what is supposedly a depressed period for rail traffic in general.

MRL has been averaging 25-30 trains per day over Mullan Pass (up considerably from previous years), the majority of which are overhead BNSF trains which join the Funnel at Sandpoint. Just so happens that on my multiple visits to Sandpoint so far this year, it seemed as though half (if not more) of the trains through that lovely city and crossing the Lake Pend Oreille bridge were coming off of or heading onto MRL.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,801 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:52 PM

Are there plans to double track Otis Orchards-Spokane ?

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 584 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Monday, July 29, 2019 9:07 PM

Yes, BNSF plans to add a second main between Otis Orchards and Irvin, WA. A distance of just over four miles. It will require a pretty large bridge over the Spokane River and an awful lot of approach fill. Here's a link to one of the last local news stories about it. The expected spring 2019 start-up hasn't begun, and the news story mis-identifies the east end of the proposed project as Hauser, ID. That's obviously incorrect, since there's been 2MT between Hauser and Otis Orchards for 21 years. 

https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/feb/26/bnsf-to-double-track-on-line-linking-spokane-valle/

 

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 12:33 PM

Bruce Kelly
It will require a pretty large bridge over the Spokane River and an awful lot of approach fill.

Here's a pic of the existing bridge via Bridgehunter:

More details: http://bridgehunter.com/wa/spokane/bh50196/

Apparently there was another bridge north of this one decades ago; the footings can be seen from the Hwy-290/Trent Ave street view. Anyone know the history?

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

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 584 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 1:54 PM

Those old stone piers are from the original 1881 NP alignment, which made more of a sweeping S-bend crossing of the river. BN track charts from the 1990s indicate the current bridge and alignment were built 1909-1911. That was when NP was shifting much of its main line slightly to the south where it runs through Parkwater, Yardley, and Erie Street Yard, utilizing a long, low trench between Yardley and Erie Street. Some segments of the original main are still in service for a mile or two west of Yardley and east of Parkwater. All of this was in conjunction with NP's construction of its elevated viaduct through downtown to eliminate the numerous street crossings.

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 5,801 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 9:32 PM

Bruce Kelly
Yes, BNSF plans to add a second main between Otis Orchards and Irvin, WA. A distance of just over four miles.  ...

Will that close the double track gap all the way to Spokane?

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 584 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Thursday, August 1, 2019 9:26 AM

Yes.

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Friday, November 15, 2019 4:29 PM

BTW the second main track section next to Cocolalla Lake has been put in service recently. CP Reasor, a new universal crossover at MP 14.3, also is in service with CP Cocolalla and CP W Algoma being retired. 2MT CTC is now continuous from CP Otis Orchards MP 58.9 east to CP East Algoma MP 5.1 on the Spokane sub.

Found a related article penned by our correspondent Bruce Kelly: https://www.railwayage.com/mw/bnsf-forges-more-funnel-double-track/

Some of the unbonded sidings between Sandpoint ID and Whitefish MT should be 'signalized' by now, need to check ATCS Monitor for kit updates. Or maybe some sightings by some locals .... Surprise

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

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 584 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Friday, November 15, 2019 5:11 PM

Here's some additional background on the Lake Coke 2nd main, including a visual.

https://www.railwayage.com/mw/bnsf-forges-more-funnel-double-track/?RAchannel=home

Not mentioned in the RA story is the fact that BNSF put up a sturdy barbed wire fence along its property on the northeast end of the lake to prevent people from walking from the highway parking areas across the two mains to access the shoreline. A smaller section of fence tops a retaining wall that was added at the southeast end of the lake.

As for the signal upgrade between Sandpoint and Whitefish, I can't speak for the entire route, but from what I've personally observed between Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry this year, there have been some new signals installed at unbonded sidings, but trains have still been entering those sidings at restricted speed. That tells the transformation was only part way done, at least as of this past summer. I haven't been east of Bonners Ferry since this time last year.

 

 

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 4:31 PM

On the southern transcon front, a post on another forum states that a contractor has been seen grading for a second MT between Cassoway siding and El Dorado Lake, KS (Chelsea). Furthermore, this 10 miles reportedly is part of a ~50 mile contract (bounds unknown). BNSF has previously announced 'intent' but no further details AFAIK.

Grading far in advance is typical for a large 2MT project as it gives time for the ROW a chance to 'settle', relocating utilities, etc. before building final touches like prefab bridges.

Anyone with pictures or useful links, please post!

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

  • Member since
    June 2012
  • 95 posts
Posted by David1005 on Friday, December 6, 2019 1:53 AM

In looking at google satellite views, there appears to be about 6 miles of single track here.  It looks like the grading and bridge work was completed some time ago.  I have to wonder why this was not double tracked long ago.  There does not appear to be any major obstacles like other recent two tracking projects. 

  • Member since
    July 2008
  • 1,951 posts
Posted by rdamon on Saturday, December 7, 2019 12:46 PM

Looking at a street view in the area it looks like work was started as early as 2007

2007

 

 2012

 

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Saturday, December 7, 2019 5:14 PM

I agree that adding a second MT should proceed quickly being pretty flat territory, IIRC some of the area is referred to as the 'Flint Hills'. Be interesting to see if they extend / join sidings a la P.S.R. or do the whole shebang. The directional routing via Newton/Wichita may be running out of capacity, especially since the Ark City sub sidings are pretty short.

rdamon
Looking at a street view in the area it looks like work was started as early as 2007

Hmm, looks like normal grading for a maintenance road to me, or perhaps they ran out of $$$ for more second main. The road overpass looks pretty short and probably was built when the ROW was graded c.1970 to bypass the old route now underwater. More wait and 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

  • Member since
    July 2008
  • 1,951 posts
Posted by rdamon on Sunday, December 8, 2019 7:44 AM

I did not see any news articles about a new bridge.  Wonder if they were just regrading the road.

  • Member since
    January 2015
  • 2,236 posts
Posted by kgbw49 on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 10:39 PM

Here is a single track section in the Flint Hills:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxLc0x5Blzw

 

  • Member since
    October 2014
  • 873 posts
Posted by Gramp on Thursday, December 12, 2019 3:17 AM

Flint Hills region is something to see. It was never farmed. The soil was too rocky.   You can easily imagine what the pioneers faced as they ventured west. I-35 cuts through it on a narrow ROW.  You can make out semis traveling on it in the distance in the BNSF drone video on the post above.  Virtually unspoiled prairie from horizon to horizon, mile after mile. In the fall, it's all golden brown. Awe inspiring in its own way. 

  • Member since
    December 2006
  • 1,569 posts
Posted by diningcar on Thursday, December 12, 2019 9:43 AM

This photo is from an overpass on KS HWY 177 looking southward down the track toward Eldorado Lake. The track turns left and will cross the lake in about one mile.

The overpass has been there for many years.

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Saturday, January 4, 2020 3:34 PM

Happy New Year!

On the Cajon sub (southern transcon near Victorville CA) railfans report that the Lower Narrows bridges are being rebuilt. It is not known if a third bridge and/or approaches for future use will be built.

Nearby local governments have lined up funding and BNSF permission to extend Green Tree Blvd near the Frost flyover. Not sure if this will affect RR operations, IMO they may need a new crossover to facilitate adding a third main track here.

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

  • Member since
    October 2016
  • 17 posts
Posted by jmonier on Sunday, January 5, 2020 7:36 AM
I think that when they add a third main track, it's possible that they might eliminate the flyover completely. It all depends on the costs and operational complexities of the various options.
  • Member since
    July 2008
  • 1,951 posts
Posted by rdamon on Sunday, January 5, 2020 5:20 PM

IIRC there was some discussion several pages ago that the Green Tree extention may threaten the Natural Crossover ..

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Monday, January 6, 2020 7:47 PM

jmonier
I think that when they add a third main track, it's possible that they might eliminate the flyover completely. It all depends on the costs and operational complexities of the various options.

I agree; they would have to add another flyover or somehow expand the existing 'flyunder' to keep two existing tracks in service. Add that expense to widening the ROW in the nearby Upper Narrows, and I think you have an expensive-to-fix bottleneck like a long bridge.

IMO if they really need the capacity they will add ten mile long 3MT blocks to the north or south of this area first. No sign of that need yet, probably will see the 'PSR monster train' solution near term.

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

  • Member since
    October 2016
  • 17 posts
Posted by jmonier on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 7:56 AM

Yes, I actually doubt that they will ever need a 3rd main track there.  The big reason for three tracks in Cajon was the bottleneck of having a 3% grade on one of two tracks.

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Friday, February 14, 2020 4:03 PM

Back in the Flint Hills area, railfan rumors seem to be heating up. Sights of grading near Matfield Green and Gladstone sidings are reported. Construction during the winter months seems unusual as there are sub-zero temps around.

If siding lengths are subtracted, the alleged '50 mile' grading contract may include all single track segments including just west of El Dorado Lake and Mulvane-Augusta. When BNSF rolls out its state-by-state capital plans in the next few weeks as usual we may learn more.

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

  • Member since
    October 2006
  • 433 posts
Posted by ccltrains on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 10:42 AM
Good morning KP. Enjoyed your coverage of the Sunset route but lately nothing has happened. Any new plans to fill the gap between Tucson and Yuma and the single tracking around the Saltan Sea?
  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Friday, February 21, 2020 2:40 PM

ccltrains
Good morning KP.

Hello @ccltrains: K.P. has not posted anything since last October, not really sure why.

At any rate, your followup should be on the Sunset Route topic instead where several siding extensions were discussed. I just found some more 'mud pot' news that I will post there.

UPDATE: Arrgh, forum links are FUBAR in this post, here's the Sunset Route topic to copy and paste:

http://cs.trains.com/trn/f/111/p/120779/3217808.aspx#3217808

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

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,273 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Friday, March 6, 2020 4:12 PM

On the northern transcon, BNSF contractors are ramping up their work related to the second Lake Pend Oreille bridge:  https://www.railwayage.com/mw/bnsf-breaks-ground-for-second-sandpoint-bridge/   No construction pictures yet except for the article lead by Bruce Kelly. Thumbs Up

The article states that "dual crossovers will be installed between the two main tracks on the Sandpoint end of the main bridges, near Dog Beach." It will be interesting to see how this is built in such tight quarters.

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

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy