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Western Railroad Discussion > How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?


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Date: 05/14/19 21:49
How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: funnelfan

With dwindling coal traffic, how long will the expensive to maintain DRGW mainline through Colorado and Utah remain viable? I'm not totally familiar with the current traffic situation, but I understand it's only a faction of the coal trains running back in the mid 2000's. Without the revenue of the coal trains, UP may find it more economical to reroute Amtrak and BNSF across Wyoming and mothball the old DRGW. I'm thinking they may keep the west end in Utah operational up to the potash branch. But I'm curious what other online traffic there is, and what the current coal train traffic looks like?

Ted Curphey
Cheney, WA



Date: 05/14/19 22:16
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: coach

They should sell it to  BNSF.  It shouild have gone to them in the first place.  UP could leverage it and perhaps gain other wanted things from BNSF if BNSF wants the line.

It coiuild also potentially become a regional line, depending on traffic agreements.



Date: 05/14/19 22:41
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: SantaFeRuss

coach Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> They should sell it to  BNSF.  It shouild have
> gone to them in the first place.  UP could
> leverage it and perhaps gain other wanted things
> from BNSF if BNSF wants the line.
>
> It coiuild also potentially become a regional
> line, depending on traffic agreements.

What is the traffic mix Union Pacific vs Burlington Northern Santa Fe  on the old Denver & Rio Grande Western  west from Denver?

SantaFeRuss



Date: 05/14/19 22:58
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: shortlineboss

Where does the Eastbound BNSF traffic for Denver go after arrival in Denver?   Does it go East or South toward Texas.? 

Mike Root
Chandler, AZ



Date: 05/15/19 00:01
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: mapboy

Here's 2018 coal for the mines of Colorado and Utah, from government FERC data.  Largest rail tonnages shown in bold.  ">" symbol indicates coal that moves on the ex-D&RGW main line.
  
Excludes coal going to cement plants and for export.
Colowyo Mine to Craig plant, via rail (RR)= 1,206,500 tons= 1.2M.
Deserado Mine to Bonanza Plant, via rail, 1.9M.
>Foidel Creek Mine (Energy EY) on Craig Branch, via rail 1.4M to:    
    Crystal River, FL- 0.2M.    
    Consumer Operations- Green Bay- 0.08M.    
    Herbert Wagner, MD- 0.025M (25,484 tons, 2 trainloads?).    
    Avon Lake, OH- 0.002M (2,141T, fraction of a unit train?).    
    Hayden, CO- 1.1M.
New Horizon Mine trucked (TR) to Nucla plant 0.07.
Trapper Mine trucked to Craig plant- 2.1M.
>West Elk Mine (near Grand Junction) via rail 0.68M (excluding large Long Beach exports) to:    
    Crystal River, FL- 0.022M.    
    Daniel, MS- 0.22M.    
    Avon Lake, OH- 0.38M.    
    CCT Terminal in IL for Indiana Michigan Power on Ohio River- 0.025M.    
    Argus Cogen at Trona- 0.033M (also 0.5M from Skyline, 0.032M from Savage)
>No other coal shown for Savage (near Helper). Skyline Mine (near Helper), also sent 0.38M to Intermountain Power (IPP) by rail and 0.12 by truck to Huntington plant.
Sunnyside lists 0.4M of waste coal trucked to Sunnyside Cogen.
Other Utah coal by rail (lots by truck):
>IPP     
    Skyline Mine listed above- 0.38M.    
    Emery Mine trucked to Savage or Skyline, then by rail-0.24M.    
    Bear Canyon next to Emery Mine, trucked/railed- 0.035M.    
    Sufco trucked to UP, then by rail-1.50M.    
    Coal Hollow near Bryce Canyon trucked 0.48M.

>North Valmy plant shows 0.47M from Black Butte (Overland Route, not Black Thunder in PRB) and 0.11M from Emery Mine (trucked to Savage or Skyline).
TS Power Plant (Newmont) shows 0.59M from Black Thunder.
No coal shown for Nevada Energy at Reed Gardener plant (Moapa).
Only Argus Cogen at Trona shown for a California coal destination (because no cement plants or exports included).

mapboy



Date: 05/15/19 02:39
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: rrpreservation

There is one very important point to remember about this line.

The STB made it clear that the BNSF has to be the competitor to the UP in the Central corridor (by virtue of the UP-SP merger). If the Rio Grande line is torn up or no longer used, then the BNSF will get the right to use the Overland route for competitive rights, and that ain't gonna happen. The Overland route has such a competitive advantage, the UP will never allow a competitor on it.

The Rio Grande line, for all its faults, will be the line BNSF (or the UP competitor) will have the rights to, always.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/15/19 02:40 by rrpreservation.



Date: 05/15/19 05:20
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: howeld

rrpreservation Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> There is one very important point to remember
> about this line.
>
> The STB made it clear that the BNSF has to be the
> competitor to the UP in the Central corridor (by
> virtue of the UP-SP merger). If the Rio Grande
> line is torn up or no longer used, then the BNSF
> will get the right to use the Overland route for
> competitive rights, and that ain't gonna happen.
> The Overland route has such a competitive
> advantage, the UP will never allow a competitor on
> it.
>
> The Rio Grande line, for all its faults, will be
> the line BNSF (or the UP competitor) will have the
> rights to, always.

Yes BNSF has rights so UP can not simply close the line but BNSF isn’t going to magically take all UP’s traffic if BNSF runs across WY instead of CO. BNSF isn’t really competitive in the central corridor and my opinion is they keep operating the one train each way for show (ie - keep government off their backs) rather than economics.

If the Thistle slide occurred today there would be no question the line would not be reopened.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 05/15/19 06:14
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: AaronJ

See comments below:

coach Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> They should sell it to  BNSF.  It shouild have
> gone to them in the first place.  

You're missing a major issue, BNSF doesn't want it. It's more efficient to run via the old ATSF to northern CA than take the slower, steeper grades through the Rockies and Sierras. Further, there isn't enough traffic potential by BNSF to Salt Lake to validate purchasing the old DRGW as the Overland route efficiency alone tells you most commerce will be running via UP from the east. Not even a debate from the west as UP won't be selling anything west of Ogden/Salt Lake, especially given directional traffic across northern NV.

> UP could
> leverage it and perhaps gain other wanted things
> from BNSF if BNSF wants the line.
>

See point above as BNSF doesn't want it hence UP isn't getting squat.

Posted from Android



Date: 05/15/19 07:03
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: tomstp

UP removed most traffic from Rio Grande and basically made it a long coal branch line..  What happens when coal goes to nothing?  That's when something major will happen.



Date: 05/15/19 07:16
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: cozephyr

Westbound coal load from Savage Loadout, UT, (train C C4PF9-13) had rear DPU's 5713, AC4400CW, and 7984 descended Soldier Summit at Gilluly Loops 13 May 2019.  Noted an empty Intermountain Power coal train and a westbound BNSF Denver, CO, to Provo, UT, train that afternoon.  Amazed to find three trains moving in the Soldier Summit area.

2-UP 7119 was DPU on empty coal train at Helper, Utah, 13 May 2019.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/15/19 08:42 by cozephyr.






Date: 05/15/19 07:47
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: atsf121

As long as the existing coal trains hold up, I don’t think we’ll see anymore major changes. Doubt UP would single track over Soldier Summit between Provo and Helper, but that could be an option to reduce maintenance costs.

Once the coal traffic is gone, or drops below a certain level, then things will get interesting. I really wonder how the STB will handle it.

Nathan

Posted from iPhone



Date: 05/15/19 08:00
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: howeld

atsf121 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> As long as the existing coal trains hold up, I
> don’t think we’ll see anymore major changes.
> Doubt UP would single track over Soldier Summit
> between Provo and Helper, but that could be an
> option to reduce maintenance costs.
>
> Once the coal traffic is gone, or drops below a
> certain level, then things will get interesting.
> I really wonder how the STB will handle it.
>
> Nathan
>
> Posted from iPhone

UP only owns one of the tracks over Soldier Summit. Utah Railroad (G&W) owns the other.



Date: 05/15/19 08:16
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: SD45X

And the Desarado mine in above post is a captive railroad run with electric locos:)

Posted from iPhone



Date: 05/15/19 08:21
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: ts1457

If the route became available, I suspect that the State of Colorado might be interested in it for expanding passenger train service to the ski slopes and resorts.



Date: 05/15/19 08:49
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: Jimbo

Concerning the two tracks over Soldier Summit, how are they operated?  Does UP dispatch, do UP Trains use both tracks, etc?

Thsnks, Jim



Date: 05/15/19 09:02
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: spwolfmtn

howeld Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> atsf121 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > As long as the existing coal trains hold up, I
> > don’t think we’ll see anymore major changes.
>
> > Doubt UP would single track over Soldier Summit
> > between Provo and Helper, but that could be an
> > option to reduce maintenance costs.
> >
> > Once the coal traffic is gone, or drops below a
> > certain level, then things will get interesting.
>
> > I really wonder how the STB will handle it.
> >
> > Nathan
> >
> > Posted from iPhone
>
> UP only owns one of the tracks over Soldier
> Summit. Utah Railroad (G&W) owns the other.

Incorrect.  Utah Ry only owns one track from Provo to the former sight of Thistle (now west of there where the Thistle mudslide bypass now starts).  UP (and formerly DRGW) owns both main tracks eastward from Thistle, up and over Soldier Summit, and on through Helper.

As for BNSF "not wanting the Central Corridor" and that they are not competitive with UP and their route through Wyoming, BNSF actually generates a healthy amount of traffic in and out of the Salt Lake City area (ie direct competition with UP).  In addition, they have some good amount of industry in the Grand Junction/western Colorado area.  It is true though that BNSF would not be interested in the Central Corridor as a through route for trains that they are currently operating over the former ATSF lines.  Because of the industry, other than coal, that remains, the former DRGW would not be totally abandoned, though whether UP puts up a fight to keep it up to mainline standards, mainly for Amtrak, or decides to try to sell it, well, that will remain to be seen what happens as for attempts to downgrade or sell the line.



Date: 05/15/19 09:56
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: funnelfan

What are the size of the unit coal trains? If they are about 125 cars long, then 1 millions tons of coal fills about 70 trains. To keep about 5 loaded trains a day going on the DRGW would mean about 26 million tons of coal annually.

Ted Curphey
Cheney, WA



Date: 05/15/19 11:02
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: bradleymckay

What's keeping Savage, Skyline Mine and West Elk Mine going is a combination of exports on a long term contract and domestic purchases on short term contracts. West Elk is loading a decent amount of trains this month, nothing spectacular, but on par with last year.

The export coal trains go to Port of Guaymas, Sonora, Port of Long Beach, Port of Stockton and Port of Richmond. Exports have really propped up UP's coal loadings this year.

Allen

Posted from Android



Date: 05/15/19 11:57
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: PHall

shortlineboss Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Where does the Eastbound BNSF traffic for Denver
> go after arrival in Denver?   Does it go East or
> South toward Texas.? 

Both. It depends on where the traffic is going.



Date: 05/15/19 12:07
Re: How long will the ex-DRGW mainline remain viable?
Author: goneon66

if a rail line's primary source of revenue is coal AND that line is unable to accommodate double stack traffic, what future does that line have if there are no more or minimal coal revenues?

66



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