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Visions - Powder River Basin Heavy Railroading

Welcome to Powder River Basin Visions Page! The are has numerous heavy freight trains coming in for loading or going out at any given time.

 




Created for 4rail.net by John McKey. Pictures by Ilkka Siissalo, Nick Slocombe, Gerard J. Putz, Hannu Peltola, David Gubler, and John McKey.





Other Subjects from U.S.

 


Articles
  Powder River Basin and Railroads

  Black Thunder Mine Train Loading


  Huge Coal Trains of Powder River


Subjects in development

  BNSF Coal Trains in Powder River Basin


BNSF ES44Ac number 6217 and SD70ACe number 9090 are leading a coal train through S-curve in Powder River Basin, Colorado, U.S.A.


BNSF ES44AC number 6163, SD70ACe and UP AC4400CTE number 5832 side by side at Powder River Basin, Colorado, U.S.A.

BNSF SD70MAC number 8846 leading a coal train in Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.

Union Pacific AC4400CW-CTE number 5972 and AC6000CW number 7069 leading a coal train at Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.

 

 
     
     
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  Powder River Basin and Railroads
BNSF SD70ACe number 9120 trundling down hill with a loaded cola train, Poweder River Basin, Wyoming, ,U.S.A.

Powder River Basin
BNSF ES44AC number 6163, SD70ACe and UP AC4400CTE number 5832 side by side at Powder River Basin, Colorado, U.S.A.

Powder River Basin is located in Wyoming and Montana, in the Middle U.S.A. Of Wyoming it is said that about 30% of the area contains coal. While this may be exaggeration, this area produces vast amounts of unusually pure coal, with no or little sulphur in it. Because of this purity, Poweder River coal is carried nationwide and exported around the World.

Coal is found here near the surface in layers so it is relatively easy to exploit. First the earth is carved from the top of the formation so that the huge excavators and dump trucks can start their work. Layers are then mined and carried to silos for loading onto trains. After the mining completes, area is returned to near its original appearance, giving wild animals pastures and creating interesting plains growing mostly grass. So U.S. methods of using natural resources here can be said being one of the most developed, nature is clearly not destroyed in mining, as would happen in many less developed countries.

Where there are huge quantities of substances to carry, there the railroads are at home. Powder River Basin just 3 decades ago was tracked with just on pair of rails, now there are in many places 3 or even 4 tracks running parallel for handling the capacity of coal movements necessary.

Most of the track is today owned by BNSF Railway, which takes care of the network. Among the other activities BNSF needs to keep the trackbed ballast clean, a work multiplied by the flying dust from the thousands of coal cars rolling by every day. The other user with trackage rights for the area is Union Pacific Railroad. Both companies seem to share about the same amount of traffic originating here.

Due to changes in energy production and World recession in 2014 amounts of coal carried from Powder River area were not at record levels, but they were still massive.

  A BNSF Railway coal train with over 100 empties is running down hill with the SD70ACe unit 9120 in lead. AC power with the super heavy coal trains seems to be almost mandatory here. Picture by Gerry Putz.

  Rich in specially pure coal Powder River Basin area is shown on the map above.

  Heavy coal trains of BNSF and UP have stopped here to get trainorders and wait for their turn to enter the system to carry the coal to its destination on power stations or ports. Here in the lineup are seen BNSF ES44AC #6163 and SD70ACe #9206 plus Union Pacific AC4400CW / AC44CW-CTE #5832. Picture by Gerry Putz.

  Click any picture on this page to see a larger version of it!

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  Huge Coal Trains of Powder River
BNSF ES44Ac number 6217 and SD70ACe number 9090 are leading a coal train through S-curve in Powder River Basin, Colorado, U.S.A.

  A typical coal train at Powder River basin is among the heaviest in the whole North America. Here the BNSF ES44AC number 6217 is rounding an s-curve in Wyoming Powder River Basin with an EMD SD70ACe number 9090 adding horse power to the effort. One more unit can be seen in the distance after about 137 loaded coal cars. Pictures by Gerry Putz.

  Below equally super heavy train is making its way on the four tracked section. In the lead here is the BNSF SD70MAC number 8846. Notice how huge the locomotives and the coal cars are compared with the full sized tractor by the track side. Just two decades ago this section had just two tracks, but the demand for extra pure coal with low sulphur content has skyrocketed since, adding need for owner BNSF to invest heavily on tracks and maintenance of it.

BNSF SD70MAC number 8846 leading a coal train in Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.




Union Pacific AC4400CW-CTE number 5972 and AC6000CW number 7069 leading a coal train at Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.
  Union Pacific AC4400CW-CTE / AC44CW-CTE number 5972 is leading a heavy loaded coal train with the AC6000CW / AC4460CW locomotive number 7069 providing additional power. The third unit at the rear of the train is not yet visible. CTE on Union Pacific RR units means they are specifically adapted to be used on trains with distributed power, or in other words trains with locomotives spread in two or more places on it and controlled by the leading unit. Pictures by Gerry Putz.
Union Pacific AC4400CW-CTE number 5757 and AC4400CW number 6603 leading a coal train at Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.
  Union Pacific AC4400CW-CTE / AC44CWCTE number 5757 and sister loco AC4400CW / AC44CW number 6603 are leading 136 fully loaded coal cars past an ethanol plant in Powder River area. The torch in the background burns the excess fumes coming out of the refining process. Pictures by Gerry Putz.

  Here the UP AC4400CW-CTE / AC44CWCTE number 6076 and an unknown ex. Southern Pacific unit are leading the coal train down grade in Wyoming. Although track here is owned and maintained by BNSF Railway, UP has trackage rights and pays BNSF for usage of this line.

Union Pacific Railway coal train at Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.

 

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  Black Thunder Coal Mine
Filling coal in Powder River Basin, Wyoming. U.S.A.

Black Thunder Coal Mine in Wyoming, U.S.A. has one of the largest deposits of coal in the World. It produces about 100 million cubic meters of coal per year. To keep up with the demand Black Thunder mine employs 6 huge dragline excavators, 25 shovels and over 150 mining trucks. It can be said to be a truly gigantic operation!

Three load outs supply coal trains filling one train of about 130 large capacity coal gondolas or hoppers in just 1 hour 15 minutes, or 35 seconds for a car while the train keeps rolling under the silo. 20 - 30 coal trains visit these load outs every day, year round, so Black Thunder Mine even has an operations control center to coordinate its large scale activities. The coal here is extremely pure with unusually low quantity of sulphur so "the black gold" is shipped from here worldwide.

  Above a UP train is just entering the load out silo with another Union Pacific Railroad train has just been filled and is waiting for its turn to dash to the main line in the background. On the right an BNSF loaded coal train is gathering speed for the next uphill with an SD70MAC in the lead. All pictures by Gerry Putz.

  Below the coal train is accelerating with all the power the strong General Electric units can muster. In the lead here is the Union Pacific AC4400CW-CTE number 5973. Here the Black Thunder Mine silo can be seen silhouetted in the background.

UP AC4400CW-CTE number 5973 leading a coal train in Poweder River area

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  BNSF Coal Haulers
BNSF coal train headed by ES44C4 number 7032 and C44-9W number 4044, Poweder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.

  Above one of the over 1000 new BNSF ES44C4 locomotives, unit 7032, leading the coal train hrough points. ES44C4 is an AC (alternating current) model with four powered axles out of 6. Another type, ES44AC is here even more common because it has 6 powered axles out of 6 and AC drive line. Picture by Gerry Putz.

BNSF ES44AC loco 6063 leading a heavy cola train in Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.


The huge running coal trains can be quite an impressive sight, expecially when these freights run side by side on more than one track.

  and Two of the trains chasing each other. The first is lead by BNSF ES44AC number 6063. Both pictures by Gerry Putz.

BNSF loaded coal hoppers, Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.

 

BNSF SD70ACe number 9120 trundling down hill with a loaded cola train, Poweder River Basin, Wyoming, ,U.S.A.

  Both of the two largest manufacturers, General Electric and Caterpillar-EMD have delivered their heavies locomotion for use at Poweder River Basin area. These seem to be equally divided to Union Pacific and BNSF Railway, though GEs rule the scenes even here today. Above one of the EMD built BNSF heavy SD70ACe number 9120 is leading a GE unit and empties down the grade.

  Below another classic EMD, SD70MAC number 8846 is struggling with a similar sister loco to get heavy loaded train up the grade. All pictures by Gerry Putz.

BNSF SD70MAC number 8846 leading a coal train in Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.
BNSF SD70MAC number 8846 leading a coal train in Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.
   
BNSF grain train meets UP coal train in Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A.
  Finally, two export commodities transported by rail meet: coal and grain are both heavy and demand a lot from the diesel power to transport them. Here the Union Pacific Railroad meets BNSF Railway, these are the two giant railway companies operating on the Powder River Basin in Colorado.
 

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