BallastThe next day I returned on the U-PPSUPT. A "U" train is "unit train other than coal or grain" according to BNSF parlance. In this case a ballast train going from Pipestone, MT (PPS) on the MRL's Homestake Pass to Upton, WY (UPT) east of Gillette on the BNSF. We had two SD40-2s, the BN 8147 and BNSF 7260. Forty loads making 4837 tons in a short 1893 feet. At 10:25 amwere just getting on the eastward main at Shilo when the MRL dispatcher called us with the bad news. He had just given the single maintrack east of Billings away to MOW forces until 1330. ARGH! Three hours!
In addition a loaded ribbon-rail train, bound for Jamestown, ND via Forsyth, had broken down on the eastward main ahead of us at Billings. The end of a car had come out and the separated train allowed the forty, quarter mile long strings of rail, to sag onto the track. A nasty situation. But we could have by-passed it by crossing over to the westward and running against the current of traffic if there had been any place for us to go at East Billings, which because of the MOW window there was not.
So I ran our ballast train the 8 miles over to MP 4 where we stopped on the eastward main to await better times. I've been looking for a "better" junker automobile to replace the one I keep at Laurel for use when I'm tied up away from home. So my conductor stayed with the train while I took my portable radio and walked across a business park to several car dealerships. I spent an hour or so perusing their offerings to no avail. On the way back I stopped in at the Olive Garden for some lunch. I got back to the train just before 1pm.
About that time they had gotten the ribbon-rail train shoved back together well enough that it could be shoved back into the clear on the Eastward Auxillary Track at Billings where its crew died on the hours of service. This permitted us to proceed from MP4 to the End Of Double Track at East Billings where we waited for the MOW window to expire.
While waiting at East Billings I got off to stretch a bit and inspect my power. The lead axle on the 8147 was leaking oil badly from the back of the axle bearing as she sat tilted on the superelevated curve.
Good sander. Bad axle seal.
Walking back to the second unit I took this picture of our train curving onto the Yellowstone River bridge.
As soon as the track machines were in the clear a westbound grain train arrived.
Later while climbing Parkman I took this shot looking straight down the side of the cab out the engineer's window. More Ballast.
Finally.....as long as we are on the subject of ballast, what are we doing here?
It is a smokey day from forest fires in August 2000 and I am working the Sheridan yard engine. We have a cut of 12 ballast cars which we are giving a shower. I slowly pull the cut of cars under the shower head at about 1 mph. Then I reverse direction and shove it under again, back and forth several times. A work train called on duty in about an hour will take the clean ballast out on the main some place and spread it on the track. The shower rinses out most of the fine powder onto the ground and the rest is well wetted. This prevents harmful clouds of rock dust from swirling around the cars while MOW forces do the dumping. Remember boys and girls, Clean ballast is healthy ballast.
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