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End of the Central Montana Railroad?

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End of the Central Montana Railroad?
Posted by VerMontanan on Sunday, June 5, 2011 4:47 PM

With all the flooding going on in Montana, a swollen Judith River has compromised a bridge on the Central Montana Railroad northwest of Lewistown, Montana.  The structure is a very long, high steel trestle, which now has a blow and "warp" in it.  Photos (and a story) are available from the Great Falls Tribune at:

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20110603/NEWS01/106030330/Judith-River-flooding-warps-trestle-tracks

The Central Montana Railroad is the longest remaining section of Milwaukee Road trackage in Montana west of Terry.  The line is now owned by the State of Montana and serves grain elevators at Denton and Geraldine.  The interchange point with BNSF is Moccasin.

It appears this could be the end of the line for the Central Montana Railroad (including their Charlie Russell "Chew-Choo" dinner train), as this will not be quick fix.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, June 6, 2011 10:01 AM

This has a definite resemblance to a fair number of undercapitalized interurbans and short lines that could keep running until a bridge collapse or sizable derailment occurred and there were insufficient funds to repair the damage.

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 10:00 AM

If it doesn't get any worse - and especially if a large crane can be gotten in there to pick out the 2 deck girder spans that each have 1 end on the shifted pier/ "bent"/ tower before they are permanently bent, and/ or temporarily brace and support them from the existing pier/ bent/ tower - it might not be too bad.  It looks like maybe about an 80 ft. long span closest to the camera, and one about 150 - 200 ft. long from the kink to the far end of the displacement - hard to tell how high it is at that point, though.  At worst, that tower/ bent at the kink might be wrecked and have to be entirely replaced, depending on where in it the damage took place and how badly the steel in it has been deformed and twisted.  But once that is done, to reset those 2 spans would likely be tricky, complicated, slow, and somewhat expensive - but nowhere near the cost of replacing the  entire bridge.  A "WAG" estimate might be in the $250,000 - $500,000 range - not cheap, but also better than abandonment and loss of service to the users, and well within the self-insured amounts of a state government. 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 1:53 PM

A recent change in the pricing structure for grain rates along the Cent Mont may also be a major factor - see this thread:  http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=81&t=67918 

Link to another article with more detailed info about the damage to the bridge:

http://lewistownnews.com/articles/2011/06/06/news/doc4dece4c6b7298220610749.txt 

Link to what may be a photo (not mine) of this bridge - at about the middle of this webpage, captioned as "trestle crosses the Judith River": http://www.montanahikes.com/Central_Montana_Railroads.php 

- Paul North.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 8:53 PM

It would appear that the flooding has scoured and undermined one of the piers and thus it is going with the flow.  Bridge is repairable, but at what cost?

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End of the Central Montana Railroad?
Posted by Rails West on Thursday, June 9, 2011 12:21 AM

I just read an article about the Central Montana Railroad.  Interesting to me is that the railroad came about as a result of a lawsuit between the state of Montana and the Burlington Northern in the early 1980's.  At the time of that suit, the state claimed that the line was, "essential for grain farmers in the central part of the state."

Well, is the rail line really absolutely "essential" as claimed by the state??  Or would the farmers survive just fine without it?  I guess we will know for sure when the owner of the damaged bridge (the state of Montana) decides either to repair, or not repair, this damaged bridge!


Article:

http://www.ktvq.com/news/lawsuit-filed-against-bnsf-railway/

Begin quoted material:


Lawsuit filed against BNSF Railway

Nov 17, 2009 6:37 AM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Attorneys for Montana have filed a lawsuit against BNSF Railway Company, accusing it of failing to live up to a 1984 agreement that the state says requires the company to pay some grain shipping costs in central Montana.

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock filed the suit on Nov. 10 in Fergus County, saying BNSF was in effect seeking to create a monopoly in central Montana. The suit asks a state judge to force BNSF to resume the payments and also cover any damages. BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said Tuesday that he could not comment before consulting with the company's attorneys.

The case's origins are in the 1980 bankruptcy of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. At the time, BNSF stepped in to take over many of the bankrupt company's lines in Montana, including one between Geraldine and Lewistown. Montana officials had said the Geraldine Line was essential for grain farmers in the central part of the state. When BNSF later decided it did not want the line, the state sued and the two sides signed a settlement agreement in 1984. As a result, the state designated a nonprofit company, Central Montana Railroad, to take over the Geraldine Line. And BNSF agreed to pay $250 per carload of grain shipped on the line. The payments had since increased to $884 per carload.

Bullock spokesman Kevin O'Brien said that at the beginning of November, the railroad stopped making payments required under the 1984 agreement. In its lawsuit, the state describes BNSF's action as "predatory" and said it would give the company a shipping monopoly in central Montana.

End quoted material.

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Thursday, June 9, 2011 11:36 AM

Well, that linked article says that the Central Montana Railroad was created as a non-profit company, a status which it seems to have fulfilled . . . what's the problem, then ?  Smile, Wink & Grin

Also says that BNSF's payments per car shipped increased from $250 per carload in 1984 to $884 as of Nov. 2009.  I suppose that's to reimburse the CM for its share of the movement's costs ?  And otherwise, I have a hard time seeing what the basic issue or problem is here . . . ?

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Thursday, June 9, 2011 11:46 AM

Paul,

Sounds like the usual political blather.  CM has only one connection - BNSF.  BNSF is "monopoly" railroad to anywhere regardless of whether grain originates on CM or at reasonably nearby BNSF main line points.

A short line division of $884 per car is VERY high.  Not being privy to the BNSF-Montana agreement I have no informed opinion about the merits of BNSF's legal position.  I can say that if I were BNSF I would not be happy about giving up a third of my revenue to a shortline that lies parallel to my main at a distance of 20 miles or so.

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Posted by VerMontanan on Friday, June 10, 2011 9:35 AM

PNWRMNM

Sounds like the usual political blather.  CM has only one connection - BNSF.  BNSF is "monopoly" railroad to anywhere regardless of whether grain originates on CM or at reasonably nearby BNSF main line points.

 

Right on.  But such is the rhetoric one hears with regard to the railroad in Montana.

My guess that on some level, the state or whoever is letting a big sigh of relief over this as it will give a way to "bow out" of the railroad business.  There has never been a lot of business on the route, and has fallen since the BNSF subsidy was discontinued.   With large bridges, a tunnel, and a 1.5 percent grade for loaded grain traffic, the route has inherent obstacles.  It was difficult to see how the state would maintain the service in perpetuity without pumping a lot of money into it at some future time.

Now, mother nature and BNSF can be blamed for the damage and the lack of incentive to repair a line that could have been shut down in future anyway.  Time will tell.

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Posted by Zwingle on Friday, June 10, 2011 2:54 PM
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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, June 10, 2011 3:39 PM

I don't feature the decision is as easy is run the railroad or not.  If the bridge is not repaired, then it will have to be dismantled as it's continued damaged existence would be a severe safety hazard.  I suspect the costs to repair the bridge will will significantly less than the costs of dismantling.

VerMontanan

 PNWRMNM:

Sounds like the usual political blather.  CM has only one connection - BNSF.  BNSF is "monopoly" railroad to anywhere regardless of whether grain originates on CM or at reasonably nearby BNSF main line points.

 

 

Right on.  But such is the rhetoric one hears with regard to the railroad in Montana.

My guess that on some level, the state or whoever is letting a big sigh of relief over this as it will give a way to "bow out" of the railroad business.  There has never been a lot of business on the route, and has fallen since the BNSF subsidy was discontinued.   With large bridges, a tunnel, and a 1.5 percent grade for loaded grain traffic, the route has inherent obstacles.  It was difficult to see how the state would maintain the service in perpetuity without pumping a lot of money into it at some future time.

Now, mother nature and BNSF can be blamed for the damage and the lack of incentive to repair a line that could have been shut down in future anyway.  Time will tell.

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Friday, June 10, 2011 3:53 PM

Zwingle

Direct links to the 3 photos - none are mine:

"Down the track" photo from track level (same as in the article linked in the Original Post):

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-tA4NGor8WOU/Te6zemvA8wI/AAAAAAAABbE/pIM4Gz1i_GU/s1600/NMD+Judith+River+Bridge+damage.jpg 

Oblique photo from above on the sunny side, which shows how the stream undercut that tower:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-uu4oFMzvOn4/Te60x-5rcEI/AAAAAAAABbI/qIkt_k8tQUY/s1600/NMD+Judith+River+Bridge.jpg

Oblique and dark photo from below on the shady side, which shows how far the top of that tower has been displaced to the one side, etc.:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-VDFBc4MAvxs/TfJz6_52JbI/AAAAAAAABbc/-JLbKLzkfRQ/s1600/trestledamage2.jpg 

Thanks for finding and sharing these !

- Paul North. 

 

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End of the Central Montana Railroad?
Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, June 10, 2011 7:29 PM

Question;  Since the effects of scoring ar3e recognizeed now how should the foundation piles be constructed on any rebuild, new bridge, etc??  Realize that any bridge is unique compared to others.  Would coring samples help? how deep any foundations?  Etc??

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Thursday, December 2, 2021 6:07 PM

https://www.lewistownnews.com/content/west-wind-fire-estimated-12500-acres

https://www.lewistownnews.com/content/west-wind-fire-burns-multiple-structures-denton?fbclid=IwAR29PRVhwhc0MW0OPScnrzwW_UCL5eD6uxrBGRgAGd_PJ7v5nNTsdtMahAA

 

The fire has destroyed a wooden bridge on the Central Montana Railroad stranding about 10 miles of stored cars between Denton and Arrow Creek.  Car storage is the railroad's primary source of revenue.  The line is permanently out of service from Arrow Creek to Geraldine due to a slide, slip outs, and no business.

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Thursday, December 2, 2021 11:22 PM
 

Vermontanan2

https://www.lewistownnews.com/content/west-wind-fire-estimated-12500-acres

https://www.lewistownnews.com/content/west-wind-fire-burns-multiple-structures-denton?fbclid=IwAR29PRVhwhc0MW0OPScnrzwW_UCL5eD6uxrBGRgAGd_PJ7v5nNTsdtMahAA

 

The fire has destroyed a wooden bridge on the Central Montana Railroad stranding about 10 miles of stored cars between Denton and Arrow Creek.  Car storage is the railroad's primary source of revenue.  The line is permanently out of service from Arrow Creek to Geraldine due to a slide, slip outs, and no business.

--Mark Meyer

 

How much business is even left on the CMR? Once they get those stored cars out of there. It may just be in everyone's best interest to abandon the CMR..

 
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Posted by Convicted One on Friday, December 3, 2021 4:04 PM

 

 

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Friday, December 3, 2021 9:03 PM

SD60MAC9500
 

How much business is even left on the CMR? Once they get those stored cars out of there. It may just be in everyone's best interest to abandon the CMR..

Well, business is a relative term.  They operate the Charlie Russell Chew Choo tourist train.  https://montanadinnertrain.com/

Other than that, car storage is the vast majority of their revenue.  In the past, I understand they have received contracts to maintain or repair railroad equipment.  But for actual loaded/empty empty/loaded commodities, there is none.

Grain produced in the area is trucked to shuttle facilties on BNSF at Carter, Tunis, Kershaw, Moccasin(Grove) or Moore.  The line can't accommodate 143-ton cars.

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, December 3, 2021 9:24 PM

Car storage is nothing to be sneezed at - a couple of bucks a car (rates vary), per day, adds up.

A thousand cars pays the payroll...

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, December 3, 2021 9:49 PM

How will they retrieve that 10 miles of stored cars.  Are their owners demanding immediate return/suspension of storage fees/penalties?

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Friday, December 3, 2021 10:09 PM

You can count on the burned bridge being replaced, and probably very quickly since there are $30-50 million worth of cars out there.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, December 4, 2021 10:39 AM

Something I've always wondered about-what happens when I need my cars back that are parked about 3 miles deep?

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Saturday, December 4, 2021 12:22 PM

PNWRMNM

You can count on the burned bridge being replaced, and probably very quickly since there are $30-50 million worth of cars out there.

Indeed.  Plus, the burned bridge is not that big.  Photos of the railroad bridge, the adjacent highway bridge that burned and the rest of the destruction in the community at: 

https://www.greatfallstribune.com/picture-gallery/news/2021/12/03/denton-montana-emerges-flames-after-devastating-wildfire/8850296002/

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Posted by SD70Dude on Saturday, December 4, 2021 12:44 PM

Very small indeed.  They'll probably just bulldoze the charred remains off to the side, drop in a culvert or two and fill it in.

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Saturday, December 4, 2021 1:52 PM

tree68

Car storage is nothing to be sneezed at - a couple of bucks a car (rates vary), per day, adds up.

A thousand cars pays the payroll...

True, for the most part, but it really depends on the railroad in question.  In this case, the cars are stored at a point starting 47 miles from the interchange station (Moccasin), traversing four long, high trestles and a tunnel, which would be a lot of railroad to maintain simply for car storage.  But the state owns it, and deems it in its best interest to keep, so might as well get some money with car storage.  There are some auxiliary tracks between Denton and Moccasin where cars are stored, but none with the length of the main track west of Denton, obviously.  Denton is the base of operation and the Chew-Choo tourist train operates east between Denton and Kingston, so that part of the main track is not available for car storage.  The current main track car storage is west of Denton toward Arrow Creek, about 10 miles.  The track continues another 30 miles beyond Arrow Creek to Geraldine, but is out of service due to a slide between Arrow Creek and Pownal, and beyond Pownal, the subgrade is very unstable (even the parallel highway is speed-restricted) and has noticeable slip-outs due to lack of any maintenance.
 
So, it is logical to conclude that it’s not worth maintaining the railroad beyond Arrow Creek because there’s no business, and it’s not even cost-effective to do so with the prospect of additional revenue from more miles of available car storage.  Therefore, it’s not a stretch to say that the railroad exists almost solely to run an infrequent tourist train and that additional (car storage) revenue is obtained using that existing infrastructure.  The state is obviously not interested in maintaining (much less upgrading) infrastructure anywhere other than along the route of the tourist train, plus the Kingston-Moccasin segment to access the point of interchange.  So yes, the car storage revenue is nothing to sneeze at and is a plus for the taxpayers of Montana, but in this case, it appears that the number of route miles in service would be as they are whether or not cars were stored on the line.
 
As information (going back to the original posting 10 years ago), when the Judith River bridge was badly damaged in 2011 by flooding, the local economic development group applied for a TIGER grant to repair.  It was denied for two consecutive years, mostly because they claimed the bridge was necessary to move agricultural products which by then was not the case.  In 2014, the state kicked in $3 million and the Economic Development Administration $1 million to repair the bridge.
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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, December 4, 2021 3:54 PM

Murphy Siding

Something I've always wondered about-what happens when I need my cars back that are parked about 3 miles deep?

A local short line encountered exactly that problem, resulting in a revised contract the next year that specified "last in, first out."

In my experience, stored cars on a given line are usually all of the same type (in this case LP tankers), so that works.

The demand for LP is cyclical, so we see the long lines of tank cars arrive each spring.  I'm pretty sure they're all gone now.

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