Freight Rail News and Happenings

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Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby twincitizen » February 4th, 2015, 9:10 am

A general thread for freight rail news in Minneapolis-St. Paul and greater MN.

http://www.startribune.com/local/west/290736391.html
Image



Well this move will certainly put more freight trains on the tracks running parallel to Bottineau, for basically its entire run through Crystal, Robbinsdale, and Golden Valley. I'm not sure that it physically affects the location of the LRT tracks or anything, as co-location has been the plan all along. At the least, heavier and longer trains carrying oil, etc. will bring up safety issues, hamper TOD along the line, etc.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » February 4th, 2015, 10:05 am

It would seem that this will make the stretch of BNSF tracks through downtown Minneapolis (which was already quite busy) very very busy indeed. I wouldn't be thrilled if I owned a condo near those tracks.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby twincitizen » February 4th, 2015, 10:10 am

Yeah, there's already a crazy amount of freight going by Dock Street Flats and all of the existing condos/THs on the NE side. The Superior Plating site too sits right on these tracks.

I totally understand wanting to have that Crystal connection for operational flexibility (why not have it available, right?), but I struggle to see how putting more trains through the downtown spine can possibly be more efficient. Trains go like 10MPH(?) under Target Field and over the river bridge, between which there is a single-track pinch-point before hitting the river. This can't be a forever solution...eventually something will have to be done to lessen train traffic through that downtown spine.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby MNdible » February 4th, 2015, 10:13 am

Is it possible that this is just a ruse to gain some leverage for funding of the Third Main project?

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby mattaudio » February 4th, 2015, 10:16 am

Yes, this makes no sense. CP's intermodal yard is at Shoreham. They have a bridge across the BNSF Northtown Yard to access it. They have a mainline across the north metro, down into St. Paul, and south to Hastings/La Crosse for unit trains. Why deal with the BNSF, and push trains down a relatively poorly maintained local freight subdivision to the Downtown Mpls / Mpls Jct chokepoints on the BNSF Wayzata Sub?

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby Anondson » February 4th, 2015, 10:19 am

Is there any desire to cap the railroad trench through downtown and old St. Anthony (by Superior Plating)

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby mulad » February 4th, 2015, 11:38 am

mattaudio mentioned this to me on Facebook. I suspect they may be trying to set up a directional running scheme through the Twin Cities, with westbound trains following the northern corridor that mattaudio mentioned in his last post, and eastbound trains using this new junction to head through Minneapolis. Canadian Pacific makes pretty heavy use of the St. Paul subdivision between Minneapolis and St. Paul as things are today, and BNSF may be pushing them to try to use their own tracks more, such as the Merriam Park subdivision -- it's relatively hard for through-running CP trains to get there today, as they have to cross over multiple tracks just south of Northtown -- a chokepoint where the St. Paul sub and BNSF's Midway sub both combine/split. This alternate routing could alleviate that conflict.

CP's corridor through the northern suburbs is only single-tracked, and I'm not sure if it has a sufficient number of sidings for letting trains pass in both directions. I guess I wouldn't be surprised if this junction in Crystal is more or less a quick fix to allow more routing options -- BNSF has plans for track upgrades in the Twin Cities this year, which could cause rail traffic backups. I haven't heard of major changes for CP, but they might have plans of their own.

Here's a quick map highlighting the rail routes mentioned so far:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid= ... q_CexdKAJ4

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby David Greene » February 4th, 2015, 11:43 am

twincitizen wrote:Trains go like 10MPH(?) under Target Field and over the river bridge, between which there is a single-track pinch-point before hitting the river. This can't be a forever solution...eventually something will have to be done to lessen train traffic through that downtown spine.
Isn't this also the bridge NLX, HSR and Zip Rail will have to use to get to Minneapolis?

I have been told that one or more of these proposed passenger lines would require another river crossing to be built but I don't know how reliable that information is.

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Re: Bottineau LRT (Blue Line Extension)

Postby mulad » February 4th, 2015, 11:51 am

I've assumed they meant replacing the existing bridge with something new -- parts of it date to 1893, 122 years ago.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby mattaudio » February 4th, 2015, 12:12 pm

Regarding passenger rail, correct. And the existing bridge is double tracked, though it narrows to one track before splitting off for the Target Field station throat. It seems like the easiest option would be to replace that single track switch with a double switch where the station throat enters the Wayzata Sub, and then double track the southern leg of the wye at Mpls Junction. This would allow passenger trains to access TFS from the east (SPUD and beyond) while allowing simultaneous operation of freight trains between the Wayzata Sub and Northtown Yard.

Regarding this freight announcement, I think Mulad is on to something. This would be similar to the way BNSF and CP share tracks and directional running between St. Paul and Hastings.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby mattaudio » February 5th, 2015, 1:10 pm

If CP/SOO had connections with BNSF at Detroit Lakes (CP line to Winnipeg and BNSF Northern Transcon) and Champion (CP line to ND and BNSF alt N. Transcon to Fargo) then they could actually do some interesting joint operations for unit train traffic across the heart of Minnesota. By creating stronger directionality, they can actually increase east-west capacity on both systems.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby lordmoke » February 5th, 2015, 3:34 pm

If I'm not mistaken, only the southern set of tracks across the Mississippi/ Nicollet Island are currently in use. The northern half of the rail bridges appears to be much older than the southern set of supports, and I would surmise can no longer bear the weight of a train. So this area is effectively single-track right now.

Source: I live next to the tracks and there is always snow cover/ ice pack over the north set of rails, but the south set are clear.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby mattaudio » February 5th, 2015, 3:47 pm

That may be true, but only because of the small bridge over the north channel (which looks like it was added onto at one point). The bridge over the main channel is a unified superstructure. So, if anything, they would just need to replace/upgrade the northern part of the small channel bridge, and rehab the tracks, making this whole segment double tracked to the station throat. Though it finally makes sense why they set up the switches as they did when Northstar was built. Thanks for that info.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby acs » February 5th, 2015, 4:06 pm

http://www.startribune.com/business/290966691.html

Somewhat old news, but BNSF will triple its spending from last year in Minnesota to $326 million. Of note, they are adding double track from big lake to becker, which is a huge deal for improving Northstar and Amtrak reliability and now opens the door somewhat for a St. Cloud extension.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby Ottergoose » February 6th, 2015, 2:31 pm

Mulad is correct; the idea is that CP traffic will circulate around the Twin Cities, with westbound traffic taking the route to the northeast (CP's St. Paul Sub) via Arden Hills, and eastbounds taking the southwestern route (BNSF's Monticello, Wayzata, and Midway Subs) via Golden Valley.

Canadian Pacific only has one (possibly two?) trains per day in each direction that utilize the inter-modal facilities at Shoreham Yard, so, most traffic can bypass it without too much hassle. CP's been trying to save money by reducing the use of Humboldt Yard (east of Crystal, MN), where a couple of local freight trains originate, I'm not sure how many of their trains need to stop there on a daily basis to pick up or drop off cars, suspect it's not too many though. Most of their activity is focused at their St. Paul (Pig's Eye) yard, which is east of the area being bypassed.

BNSF is spending millions to upgrade signal systems, upgrade junctions, and double/triple-track segments in the Twin Cities to allow all of this; they're anxious to get CP out of their way so they can keep all of their own traffic moving.

Union Pacific is investing in additional sidings and junction upgrades in the area as well; they're moving a lot of frac sand out of Wisconsin.

It's an interesting time to be interested in freight operations around the Twin Cities, to be sure.
Last edited by Ottergoose on February 6th, 2015, 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby mattaudio » February 6th, 2015, 2:33 pm

Interesting stuff. So, how is CP in BNSF's way currently? Are they routing intermodals via Shoreham Yard to St. Paul or Midway Subs to get over to Pigs Eye via BNSF? I swear I see CP intermodal/oil traffic on the BNSF St. Paul Sub all the time.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby Ottergoose » February 6th, 2015, 3:10 pm

mattaudio wrote:Interesting stuff. So, how is CP in BNSF's way currently? Are they routing intermodals via Shoreham Yard to St. Paul or Midway Subs to get over to Pigs Eye via BNSF? I swear I see CP intermodal/oil traffic on the BNSF St. Paul Sub all the time.
Any time there's a CP train on BNSF's tracks between Minneapolis and St. Paul they're slowing things down for BNSF; there's a finite amount of capacity for those lines, and they're hitting it now, apparently.

CP didn't regularly run more than a handful of trains via the CP St. Paul Sub (the northeastern portion of their potential circulation route) until late 2013 / early 2014; before that just about everything went over BNSF's tracks between St. Paul and Minneapolis (BNSF St. Paul Sub, mostly). As you note, there's still plenty of CP traffic on the BNSF St. Paul Sub.

By allowing directional circulation of CP traffic around the Twin Cities, BNSF will greatly increase capacity for their own trains through the area.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby mattaudio » February 6th, 2015, 3:18 pm

Seems to me like they should double track the Wayzata Sub, the southern leg of the Mpls Jct Wye, and the Midway Sub at least over to Midway/MNNR. This would open up capacity for BNSF trains from Wayzata and Northtown to St. Paul, and CP via this new arrangement. Then St. Paul Sub can hopefully be more of high capacity racetrack for priority traffic.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby Ottergoose » February 6th, 2015, 3:35 pm

mattaudio wrote:Seems to me like they should double track the Wayzata Sub, the southern leg of the Mpls Jct Wye, and the Midway Sub at least over to Midway/MNNR. This would open up capacity for BNSF trains from Wayzata and Northtown to St. Paul, and CP via this new arrangement. Then St. Paul Sub can hopefully be more of high capacity racetrack for priority traffic.
Indeed; double-tracking from Minneapolis Junction to St. Anthony (MNNR) is part of the plan covered in that Strib article..

The area from Minneapolis Junction to Target Field is practically double-tracked now; I'd guess they'd be upgrading the siding there to better utilize it; per lordmoke above, sounds like they don't use it too frequently now.
Last edited by Ottergoose on February 6th, 2015, 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Freight Rail News and Happenings

Postby mattaudio » February 6th, 2015, 3:41 pm

Ah, that wasn't quite clear... I wasn't sure what St. Anthony refers to in BNSF parlance... I figured it was referring to the Superior Plating area, which is already double tracked (thus my confusion) though it makes more sense that it's referring to the St. Anthony area of St. Paul.

It's so strange that the Midway Sub isn't "double tracked" given that much of it has multiple tracks. The bridge over 35W - a relatively new bridge in railroad lineage - has capacity for 6 tracks, with 4 current tracks, though apparently 3 are just yard/siding tracks. The 13th Ave bridge between Dinkytown and Como goes under space for 9 tracks, with 7 actual tracks right now.


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