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Down here in beautiful Rock Island (WA), we've been treated to eastbound M/T coal trains, and are now looking at M/T eastbound tank car trains. I assume the westbound loads are to Point Roberts (coal) and Cherry Point (oil).

My question. Is it really that much less expensive to run westbound loads from Spokane to Vancover, hanging a right turn and going north than it is to drag them over Stevens (or Stampede)? I'd think the fuel savings would be eaten up by crew costs.

Inquiring minds want to know. Me too.....


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I'll add rumor and speculation. I believe BNSF doesn't run any real tonnage over Stevens because they don't have too, and they would rather run high priority - faster stack trains. It's far safer to run tonnage down the Lakeside/Fallbridge subs and requires minimal power at around 1 HP per ton. I believe the minimum for the 2.2% on Stevens is 2.8 HP/ton, so calculate how much power would be require for a 17 to 18K ton coal train.

To run over Stevens without splitting the train in two BNSF was running the slightly lighter loaded grainers (13K to 14K tons) after adding power at Wenatchee which meant that they had to take a lot of time and cut the train in two to add power and add another loco to the front. So the train was a monster 3x3x2 - 4 to 5 more locomotives than via the Fallbridge. Even with all that power they could only pull the grade at 13 MPH.

They also couldn't stop the train from Merritt to Skykomish which I'm sure was a headache for the DS and I believe the max speed they could travel from the Cascade Tunnel down to Sky was 13 MPH.

Hopefully someone has an answer with more facts in it.

Ryder P. Moses

Half Man Half Loco
BNSF has been running the "priority empty trains" over Stevens
because the 120-125 car trains only weigh about 3500 tons.
Empty trains can get over Stevens with ease with 3-4
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