Montana Outdoors

February 10, 2008

More trains

Filed under: Conservation, Environment — Tags: , — montucky @ 2:09 pm

It seems that I have a compulsion to photograph trains. My rationale for this is that they are actually a very fuel efficient means of freight transport relative to other methods and deserve more attention for that reason. My wife however, says it’s because they are easier to track than wildlife. (Sorry, I just had to include that remark… couldn’t help myself!)

Rail Link

BNSF train

BNSF 6749 train

BNSF 8279 train

BNSF 8279 train

This freight transportation comparison is from the US Transportation Energy book for 2004, rating fuel consumption in BTU’s per ton mile: Air freight – 9,600; Heavy trucks – 3,357; Class 1 Railroads – 341. (Roughly 10 times more efficient than trucks, 30 times more efficient than air freight.) Interestingly enough you don’t hear much about this, even with the current focus on energy use. Are we ignoring something?


  1. that is the kind of hunting I could do! these shots are great! never thought about their fuel efficiency


    Comment by silken — February 10, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

  2. Yes, silken, by all means go out and “track” one down! Of course, your photos won’t have all that white in the background though.


    Comment by montucky — February 10, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

  3. Very interesting numbers. And the photos are marvelous, also.


    Comment by Pinhole — February 10, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  4. Trains are awesome.


    Comment by Patia — February 10, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  5. Pinhole,

    I always like to watch the trains, and there are quite a few that pass through this area each day. This time of year there is also a lot of truck traffic because they can use this route and avoid a couple of mountain passes, even though it adds a few miles. The comparison suggests some scrutiny, with one engine pulling one load for a truck and four much larger engines on a train, but they are pulling around 120 cars. Maybe our leaders are more interested in furthering their political careers and acquiring personal wealth than they are in providing solutions to the energy and air quality issues that are threatening to eliminate our species.


    Comment by montucky — February 10, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

  6. Yes they are, Patia. I can’t understand why they don’t get more use than they do.


    Comment by montucky — February 10, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

  7. I hadn’t been on a train in years, but this past August I decided to take the train to the Alaska State Fair. It was a wonderful trip and I plan on doing it again next year too.
    Not only did it save on my own fuel costs, but it was a wonderful way to get out and see some beautiful scenery that I hadn’t seen before.
    Great pictures Montucky!


    Comment by ak_adventurer — February 10, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

  8. That would be a great thing to do!

    It has been a long time since there was any passenger service near here. The closest is about a hundred miles. I remember when there was though and it was relaxing to ride and, as you said, there was scenery that couldn’t be seen from the highways. I doubt that passenger service is still viable in this part of the country, but freight sure is.


    Comment by montucky — February 10, 2008 @ 5:14 pm

  9. I love trains – it’s a shame that this country’s passenger train system is all but gone. I would love to be able to travel by train, but it’s so very difficult, if not impossible, for nearly any destination 😦

    Thanks for sharing the photos – I also cannot avoid taking photos of any trains that happen to be in my way 🙂


    Comment by Adam R. Paul — February 10, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  10. Adam,

    They keep trying to keep Amtrak going up here, but it has a very limited scope, running only across the north of the state. I doubt that up here it will ever be viable again, but there are rails all over the state that can carry (and are carrying) freight. I think that could be expanded.

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who just has to photograph them!


    Comment by montucky — February 10, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

  11. I was just pouring through old documents as of late and ran into the knowledge that my great-grandfather repaired train cars. He had TB as a very young man and died. Trains were for a very long time the closest thing you could call the the “family business” as all of my uncles worked for them and my grandfather. {Burlington Northern I think} They have a long history here as well. I think your photos of them are fabulous. (p.s. on the amtrak comments I agree – by brother comes fishing about twice a year and takes the train saves tons of money in the process and he loves the ride.)


    Comment by aullori — February 11, 2008 @ 12:53 am

  12. Wow… You just made me a train enthusiast!


    Comment by winterwoman — February 11, 2008 @ 6:31 am

  13. Funny, I love trains and have always been connected to the train industry – lots of relatives were ‘train men’ of some sort or other. ANd like Aullori, my family worked for Burlington Northern, too – Chicago to Burlington to Quincy (IL) run. Always a thrill when they rolled into the station.

    Keep those train pics coming…


    Comment by barbara — February 11, 2008 @ 6:35 am

  14. Lori,

    There have been a lot of proud men who worked on the railroads. My wife saw a brief note on TV yesterday that pointed out that even at the current time, passenger trains have a much higher “on time” record than airlines.

    Maybe we are getting back to the feeling that train travel would be a good way to go, were it available.


    Comment by montucky — February 11, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  15. Winterwoman,

    I wish other people would start looking at them again. Back in the days of the steam powered engines which burned coal, many people didn’t like them because they were pretty dirty and very smelly. Today’s diesels do produce smoke (you can see a blue haze over the engines in photos 2 and 4) but they are much better.


    Comment by montucky — February 11, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  16. Barbara,

    Burlington Northern is still around, although it is part of Burlington Northern – Santa Fe, which is represented on the engines by “BNSF”. They are the main carriers through here now.

    We used to have the Great Northern and Northern Pacific, and long ago, an electric powered train called the Milwaukee Road.

    The stations were always fascinating places. In 1959, I took a train from Montana to Iowa for my first year of college and changed trains in the Great Northern Station in Minneapolis. I’ll never forget that!


    Comment by montucky — February 11, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  17. I like trains and think these photos are awesome. Makes me want to get on a train and ride and paint.


    Comment by wrjones — February 11, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

  18. I’m not an artist, but I bet a train would make a good setting!


    Comment by montucky — February 11, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

  19. Your trains shots are great Terry, it’s hard keeping up with all your photos and the other sites right now, right in the middle of our high school basketball playoffs right now.

    Just letting you know I am still around and when things calm down I will be posting and visiting more, take care 🙂


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — February 12, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

  20. Bernie.

    Good luck in the playoffs! It will be good to see you again when things settle down!


    Comment by montucky — February 12, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

  21. Terry as a quick side note – there is a train ride in Ione up here to Metaline Falls in the fall. It’s gorgeous I hear I still have to take it. If you ever wander in this direction I bet it would be right up your alley. An old steam engine running right in between two mountain ranges. Yours and mine as a matter a fact 🙂 I’ll try to take it this year and post photos on it but it’s in Oct. I’ve only heard rants on the subject myself. That would be a good fall project. It’s pretty inexpensive too – $10.50 a passanger.


    Comment by aullori — February 13, 2008 @ 1:37 am

  22. I bet that would be a pretty trip! I will certainly keep it in mind. Thanks!


    Comment by montucky — February 13, 2008 @ 9:06 am

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