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Western Railroad Discussion > What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take ove


Date: 06/02/23 14:12
What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take ove
Author: wyeth

I was going to post this on a thread a couple days ago, but since that thread was about a new locomotive purchase by BNSF, and some of the topics there got off on a different track (ie thoughts of what BNSF might do after it takes over the MRL), I'd start a new thread on that subject.

>NWrailfan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Who wants to guess they'll go to Helena,
> MT and broke in as pushers? Haha. 

>Well, maybe Laurel MT.  I'd put money out that BNSF elliminates manned pushers on the (soon to be) ex-MRL territories in favor of DPU's (similar to what UP does to get through eastern Oregon's Blue Mtns).

>PHall Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Doesn't MRL have the manned helpers over Mullan
> Pass for the same reason BNSF now uses them on the
> east side of Tehachapi Pass? i.e. short but steep
> grade but no more need for all that power once
> they crest the grade. Instead of tying up a bunch
> of locomotives as DPU's that are not being used
> for most of the trip you use a few for the one
> part of the run that needs the power, but they can
> help multiple trains while the DPU units are stuck
> on just one train.
> At least that's how it was explained to me.

Actually the MRL is a different animal than Tehachapi, they have two westbound ruling grades that require the current manned helpers:  Mullans Pass out of Helena, and Bozeman Pass our of Livingston.  My prediction, if the BNSF continues to run loaded unit trains that way, they'll add a DPU swing set at Laurel, or maybe Livingston, then remove it at Missoula.

UP has a similar issue in eastern Oregon, three ruling grades between Nampa ID and Hinkle OR (four if you count Reverse out of Glenns Ferry ID (between Nampa and Pocatello).  Swing DPU helpers cut in at Nampa (sometimes Pocatello), then removed at Hinkle OR (two crew districts).

Tehachapi is a single grade, manned helpers can make sense there.  UP came up with the same conclusion out of Eugene OR for Cascade Summit; eliminated DPU and based a manned helper out of Oakridge for the long climb to Cascade Summit (no corresponding northbound climb to this summit on the east side).

This all being said, I wouldn't be surprised if BNSF doesn't have other ideas in mind; like run the loaded unit trains up to the HiLine (example, run loaded coal trains up to Shelby MT out of Laurel (via Great Falls), then over the easier, single grade over the Continental Divide via Whitefish MT); then run the empties back via the former MRL.  I have no idea how the logistics of this would work (like crew balancing), but my bets they have some kind of scheme in mind...



Date: 06/02/23 14:52
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: PHall

wyeth Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I was going to post this on a thread a couple days
> ago, but since that thread was about a new
> locomotive purchase by BNSF, and some of the
> topics there got off on a different track (ie
> thoughts of what BNSF might do after it takes over
> the MRL), I'd start a new thread on that subject.
>
> >NWrailfan Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Who wants to guess they'll go to Helena,
> > MT and broke in as pushers? Haha. 
>
> >Well, maybe Laurel MT.  I'd put money out that
> BNSF elliminates manned pushers on the (soon to
> be) ex-MRL territories in favor of DPU's (similar
> to what UP does to get through eastern Oregon's
> Blue Mtns).
>
> >PHall Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Doesn't MRL have the manned helpers over Mullan
> > Pass for the same reason BNSF now uses them on
> the
> > east side of Tehachapi Pass? i.e. short but
> steep
> > grade but no more need for all that power once
> > they crest the grade. Instead of tying up a
> bunch
> > of locomotives as DPU's that are not being used
> > for most of the trip you use a few for the one
> > part of the run that needs the power, but they
> can
> > help multiple trains while the DPU units are
> stuck
> > on just one train.
> > At least that's how it was explained to me.
>
> Actually the MRL is a different animal than
> Tehachapi, they have two westbound ruling grades
> that require the current manned helpers:  Mullans
> Pass out of Helena, and Bozeman Pass our of
> Livingston.  My prediction, if the BNSF continues
> to run loaded unit trains that way, they'll add a
> DPU swing set at Laurel, or maybe Livingston, then
> remove it at Missoula.
>
> UP has a similar issue in eastern Oregon, three
> ruling grades between Nampa ID and Hinkle OR (four
> if you count Reverse out of Glenns Ferry ID
> (between Nampa and Pocatello).  Swing DPU helpers
> cut in at Nampa (sometimes Pocatello), then
> removed at Hinkle OR (two crew districts).
>
> Tehachapi is a single grade, manned helpers can
> make sense there.  UP came up with the same
> conclusion out of Eugene OR for Cascade Summit;
> eliminated DPU and based a manned helper out of
> Oakridge for the long climb to Cascade Summit (no
> corresponding northbound climb to this summit on
> the east side).
>
> This all being said, I wouldn't be surprised if
> BNSF doesn't have other ideas in mind; like run
> the loaded unit trains up to the HiLine (example,
> run loaded coal trains up to Shelby MT out of
> Laurel (via Great Falls), then over the easier,
> single grade over the Continental Divide via
> Whitefish MT); then run the empties back via the
> former MRL.  I have no idea how the logistics of
> this would work (like crew balancing), but my bets
> they have some kind of scheme in mind...


Or they could just leave things as they are. If it ain't broke....



Date: 06/02/23 14:59
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: MP555

PHall Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Or they could just leave things as they are. If it
> ain't broke....

I'm sure it will be like a new supervisor coming in and making their mark on the operation.  Doesn't matter if things have been working with a proven process.  As aggressive as BNSF is in cost-cutting, now, they absolutely will try to fix it if it ain't broke.



Date: 06/02/23 15:08
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: callum_out

I've heard the term used already in regard to the takeover and that's acquaint the MRL people with the BNSF culture.
Ouch.

Out 



Date: 06/02/23 15:18
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: NWrailfan

Can we get really creative and surmise if the thought of reopening Homestake Pass is still on the table and being considered if PNW traffic continues to grow over the next decade or two even without any mega export coal terminals ever being built? Oh to have been a fly inside the hirail suburban of MRL and BNSF folks a few years back!



Date: 06/02/23 15:55
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: yorknl

If BNSF's plan is to route more traffic through Great Falls, wouldn't they have done that *without* buying MRL and burning up some of Uncle Warren's retirement fund?



Date: 06/02/23 16:48
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: midwest

yorknl Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If BNSF's plan is to route more traffic through
> Great Falls, wouldn't they have done that
> *without* buying MRL and burning up some of Uncle
> Warren's retirement fund?

No, not necessarily. The contract with MRL guaranteed them volume. BNSF often wanted to route via Great Falls to avoid MRL once that (quarterly?) number had been meet. But this would result in wonky board resizing that may or may not been very cost effective. And there are many other cost/benefit factors to the acquisition that the railfan world will never be privy to.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/02/23 16:49 by midwest.



Date: 06/02/23 18:28
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: PHall

yorknl Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If BNSF's plan is to route more traffic through
> Great Falls, wouldn't they have done that
> *without* buying MRL and burning up some of Uncle
> Warren's retirement fund?

How do you buy something you already own?   All that happened was that MRL terminated their lease early.



Date: 06/02/23 20:09
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: yorknl

Midwest, thanks for your reply. Right, I wasn't thinking about the traffic guarantees, and there are that and other things going into BNSF's calculus.

PHall, thank you for keeping me honest about minutiae. You're right, the practical difference between 'buying' and 'terminating the lease' is staggering. BNSF resuming operations over the affected trackage in exchange for sending a lot of money to the Washington group is a much different outcome than...er...yes. Very different.

Posted from Android



Date: 06/02/23 21:17
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: PHall

yorknl Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Midwest, thanks for your reply. Right, I wasn't
> thinking about the traffic guarantees, and there
> are that and other things going into BNSF's
> calculus.
>
> PHall, thank you for keeping me honest about
> minutiae. You're right, the practical difference
> between 'buying' and 'terminating the lease' is
> staggering. BNSF resuming operations over the
> affected trackage in exchange for sending a lot of
> money to the Washington group is a much different
> outcome than...er...yes. Very different.
>
> Posted from Android

Wasn't the Washington Group paying lease payments to BNSF? 



Date: 06/02/23 21:46
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: bmarti7

I'll switch the subject here to super trains (what the BNSF calls looong trains). I predict a regular pattern of super trains running westbound on the HiLine and eastbound via Missoula and Glendive between Dilworth and Sandpoint. 

PCBill



Date: 06/02/23 23:06
Re: What might MRL train operations look like after the BNSF take
Author: Pacific5th

Chaos 



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