Union Pacific Moves Its 200,000th Loaded Coal Train From Wyoming’s Southern Powder River Basin

OMAHA, Neb. – Union Pacific Railroad moved its 200,000th loaded coal train out of Wyoming’s Southern Powder River Basin (SPRB) coal field since Union Pacific and the former Chicago & North Western completed a 107-mile rail line to the region in August 1984. The Chicago & North Western merged with Union Pacific in 1995.

One rail car of coal provides the energy togenerate enough electricity for more than 20 homes for a year. Union Pacific’s 200,000 trains out of the SPRB have carried enough coal to power all the homes in the United States for 5 years. Approximately 50 percent of America’s electricity comes from coal, one of the most affordable and reliable energy sources.

“Hitting the 200,000th train mark during what will be our 25th anniversary of the line proves the capital investment in our coal corridor continues to pay dividends for our customers,” said Doug Glass, Union Pacific vice president and general manager – energy. “It was only fitting that the 200,000th train was loaded for Entergy, the same customer that the first Union Pacific SPRB train was loaded for in 1984.”

Union Pacific’s major capacity projects on the corridor have included:

  • The completion of a four-year construction of a third main line track between North Platte and Gibbon, Neb., in 1999.
  • In 2000, completing a four-year project constructing a second main line track between Gibbon, Neb., and Marysville, Kan.
  • Also in 2000, Union Pacific began to construct 37 miles of second main line track on its line between South Morrill, Neb., and Shawnee, Wyo. As part of the track construction, 24 bridges were built at various locations.
  • Union Pacific increased the capacity at its South Morrill rail yard and built a new bridge at South Bayard, Neb.
  • Union Pacific acquired the 107-mile rail line between Upland, Kan., and St. Joseph, Mo., from RailTex, Inc., in August 1998 to add additional capacity between Marysville and Kansas City. The line between Upland and Hiawatha, Kan., handles primarily westbound empty coal trains.
  • In 2003, the second main line was completed on Union Pacific’s South Morrill line between South Morrill and North Platte, Neb.
  • A third main line was added in North Platte in 2006.
  • In 2006, the Marysville, Kan., bypass opened to expedite the movement of loaded and empty coal trains.

Other investments in technology developments helping Union Pacific reach the 200,000th loaded coal train benchmark:

  • An in-train wheel repair process started in late 2006 at Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., trimmed the time in which defective coal car wheels were changed from several days to a matter of ten minutes.
  • Use of new high-horsepower locomotives and distributed power in coal trains have helped increase efficiency of trains as well as the ability to increase the train size from 110 cars in 1984 to an average of 132 today.

Another reason for the improved coal train numbers is the success of the  combined Union Pacific/Burlington Northern Santa Fe coal train dispatching facilities at BNSF’s dispatching center in Ft. Worth, Texas.  By having both railroads’ train dispatchers in the same room, instead of hundreds of miles apart, train movements on shared track in Wyoming are better coordinated.

“SPRB coal volume has increased 11 percent annually since 1984,” Glass said. “While demand for coal is off this year due to the recession, lower demand for metallurgical coal and reduced industrial output, we expect continued growth of this cost-effective, low sulfur coal for many years to come.”

“Support of new power plant technologies that are capable of capturing CO2 will support continued demand for coal and help address the United States’ desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continue to provide cost-effective electricity to U.S. industry and consumers.”