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BNSF still interested in electrification

A reader sent this along. It has to do with BNSF’s previously reported interest in electric motive power. Railway Age has been following the story.

Electrification evaluation expands

BNSF would allow electric transmission line companies to use rights-of-way like its Transcon, for example, to send electricity from massive wind farms to major population centers in exchange for drawing low-cost power for electric locomotives. The concept has taken on additional importance with the Obama Administrations emphasis on developing high speed passenger rail corridors and cleaner forms of energy like wind, hydro-electric, and solar.
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Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

17 Responses

  1. Allan says:

    I’m curious as to how it will work for freight trains. I’ve seen a lot of odd and big things move on rail. Even the car carriers are pretty tall.

    Europe doesn’t move near the amount of freight via rail that we do and they can dictate the height of the freight. Will this mean that large objects will have to be moved by truck?

    We just can’t string up catenaries and call it good!

  2. worsel says:

    Great Northern Railway – now part of BNSF – tore down their freight route catenaries in the 60’s to replace their freight hauling electric locomotives with diesels.

  3. Avery says:

    I seen a lot of freight being moved while in Switzerland, but they are shorter trains moving much faster. This means that shipping via rail could be a lot more efficient and not as limited as it is now in the US. I think shorter/smaller trains moving faster work better than slow moving mile long trains that take days to reach their destination. One problem I see is that BNSF shares tracks a lot with other railroads, meaning that only part of their operation would be upgrading making the rest possibly worse off.

  4. theo says:

    Hooray for BNSF. They’re future oriented, unlike UP, and they’re not going to get run over by progress.

    I doubt those old ’50s GN caternaries would do much good now — they would’ve had to rebuild them anyway to handle double-stack trains.

  5. payton says:

    BNSF also serves exactly the right corridor to address a huge voltage bottleneck in the electric grid: getting wind power from the Great Plains to the Midwest (and from there to the east). The sooner we can replace coal with wind, the easier all of us will breathe.

  6. Mad Park says:

    Milwaukee, Virginian, and of course the Pennsy all moved freight under the wires. Were those systems still around they’d be as antiquated as parts of Metro North’s system. Hang the catenary high, have tall pantographs and those double stack trains will roll right along under the wires!

  7. Avery says:

    My point was that if the trains are moving much faster and more efficiently, there is no need for double stacks or mile long trains for that matter. A super high wire makes for super tall catenaries on passenger trains anyway, looking and possibly operating awkwardly.

  8. [...] Atrios, this: BNSF would allow electric transmission line companies to use rights-of-way like its Transcon, for [...]

  9. Chris G says:

    As Mad Park points out, higher catenary would do it. This is already being done in India for doublestack freights.

  10. MadPark says:

    And, higher catenary allows for double deck passenger cars, too – the children of the Superliners!

  11. Allan says:

    Avery, like we look at the Europeans for passenger rail, the Europeans look to us for freight rail.

    It’s a matter of physics. While a large portion of the energy consumed is during the acceleration stage, it does take energy to overcome wind resistance at high speeds. Once you get those long lines of freight cars up to speed, even a slow speed, it wll use less energy than several shorter trains at high speeds.

  12. [...] BNSF still interested in electrification A reader sent this along. It has to do with BNSF’s previously reported interest in electric motive power. Railway [...] [...]

  13. HockeyFan says:

    Kudos again to Matt Rose and BNSF for thinking outside the box and looking ahead. BNSF started double tracking (gasp!) the Transcon while other RR’s were still yanking out track like it was the 1970s. They built a first class line and attracted high priority, high dollar intermodal shipments to their steel highway. You don’t see any UPS trailers on lines that can’t guarantee consistent and fast service.
    Some other Class One RR’s top brass have a “get off my lawn” attitude when it comes to Amtrak, HSR, climate change, etc.

  14. jim says:

    Avery – Short & fast trains are more expensive to operate due to more locomotives and crews running short trains. In Europe 14% of all cargo moves by rail compared to the US, which is close to 50%. The reason being that Europe has major height issues through out the country and the inefficiencies of running shorter faster trains. Short trains are ok in the US for locals but the cost to run them cross-country would be astronomical. Europe also operates more trains over shorter routes.

  15. mulad says:

    The November ’09 issue of “Trains” magazine covered the idea of electrified freight a fair bit. They said that China has been able to increase freight tonnage by over 70 percent on their electrified lines, running trains headed by 13,000-hp locomotives. A third of their rail network is electrified. In Russia, the entire Trans-Siberian railway is run with electricity.

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