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Nostalgia & History > BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin

Date: 05/22/09 07:53
BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: WAF

The final installment of this trip around the Intermountain West brings us to where the story began in 1972, when ARCO asked the BN to build a spur from Donkey Creek Jct east of Gillette, WY to a new mine ARCO was operating called Belle Ayr. Because of the success of Belle Ayr, the BN built south to join up with its Casper Line at Bridger Jct. The Chicago and NorthWestern, hot on the scent of coal, planned to build its own line into the Powder River Basin, but financing couldn't be aranged and the ICC didn't want two separate lines, so they ordered the BN and CNW to come to terms for a joint project. Unfortunately, the CNW couldn't come up with the money for their half, but they found someone WHO COULD, namely the Union Pacific Railroad. UP would upgrade its O'Fallons Line and build a new line west of South Morrill, NE to CNW's Casper Line at Crandell. Upgrading would turn this small rail branch into a first class coal line. A short connector line was built from Shawneee Jct into the BN's line. At first, passing sidings on the Orin Line were 5 miles long with 4-5 empties meeting 4-5 loads as SOP. Little by little, the Orin Line was double tracked, then tripled in places and now four mainlines exist in certain bottleneck locations in 1979.

Photo 1- A load from the North end of the PRB comes off Whitetail Hill onto the Gillette line at Donkey Creek Jct. Here this load will cross Crawford Hill in a number of hours before going east or south at Alliance, NE

Photo 2 and 3- An empty snakes its way south of Donkey Creek up the 1.7 percent grade on Whitetail Hill

Date: 05/22/09 08:04
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: WAF

Photo 4- The BN felt that the Orin Line was a faster route for its intermodal/merchandise train to the PNW rather than via Casper and Greybull. Here 091 winds down Whitetail Hill in June, 1990. It was a faster line but was steadily losing ground on timekeeping as more and more train sets loaded on the PRB mine sites, forcing 091/092 to wait hours for muliple meets.

Photo 5- The sun has just risen in September, 1992 as another load slowly descends the double tracked Whitetail Hill into Donkey Creek Jct.

Photo 6- A spring snowstorm is approaching northern Wyoming as a SouthEast Power and Light train slowly approaches Cordero Jct.

Date: 05/22/09 08:18
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: WAF

Photo 7- Anoher load of ARCO heads south from Belle Ayr Jct to Bridger Jct.

Photo 8- A single SD40-2 handles BN091's 11 cars with ease at Cordero Jct. The tall concrete silos of Caballo mine rise above the low hills

Photo 9- Helpers sit in the Belle Ayr Jct helper pocket awaiting its next shove up Whitetail Hill. A empty is loading at Caballo Mine next to the silos while another empty set is rolling into Belle Ayr's loading loop.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/22/09 08:36 by WAF.

Date: 05/22/09 08:34
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: WAF

Photo 10- In addition to the vast fields of coal in Campbell County, there is a large collection of natural gas in this wild part of Wyoming. Once a week, Gillette will dispatch a local down the Orin Line to near Reno to switch the LPG station. Here is a local passing the distant silos of Belle Ayr in September, 1991.

Photo 11- As a an empty sits to wait its turn at Cordero mine at East Cordero, a load enters the mainline for the uphill trip to Donkey Creek Jct.

Photo 12- An empty heads north at Coal Creek in July, 1991. This location is now double track.

Date: 05/22/09 08:46
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: WAF

Photo 13- An empty sits in the siding while a load heads south at West Antelope

Photo 14- Coal dust flies off the tops of cars at West Antelope as a load heads north to Donkey Creek Jct. At Cordero Jct, a helper will get on the rear of the train and shove to Whitetail.

Photo 15- Before CTC came to the PRB, Reno was a train order office. It is still in use as a MOW office in July, 1991 as a Public Service of Colorado train rolls south.

Date: 05/22/09 08:57
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: WAF

Photo 16- A Rawhide Power and Light train rolls by the concrete silos of the Antelope Mine at Nacco.

Photo 17- An empty climbs the Logan Hill while a CNW load disappears around the corner in the distance. Today, four main tracks stand here, due to the congestion of slow moving coal loads on the one percent grade.

Photo 18- A CNW load waits on the mainline at Walker for an approaching BN empty. This is another location that is now double track.

Date: 05/22/09 13:32
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: ntharalson

Great set of photos, WAF. You had a great trip. I was in that area
a year later, and while there was still a lot of single track, the
double track was well underway. West Antelope to Coal Creek Junction
was the last stretch of single track on the Orin line, and would be
gone by the end of the year.

A question for you. Photos 12 and 13 APPEAR to be the same train,
and also appear to be loads. It was possible for loads to pass loads
on this section of the the Orin line. And at one time, loads were
all eastbounds and empties were all westbounds, which made for some
interesting meets.

Again, great stuff, and enjoyed looking at it.

Nick Tharalson,
Marion, IA

Date: 05/22/09 17:20
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: WAF

Posssible. Have to check my notes

Date: 05/22/09 20:00
Re: BN- Orin Line.. Powder River Basin
Author: DynamicBrake

Looks like in the last photo, one of the headend crew is "taking care of business." Don't miss that roll-by now.

Kent in Carmel Valley

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