Montana Outdoors

February 8, 2011


Filed under: Conservation — Tags: — montucky @ 9:12 pm


Diesel locomotives can move a ton of freight 436 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. The average American car weighs about two tons and gets about twenty miles per gallon. Makes me wonder…


  1. And yet while RRs have such a massive economic advantage in moving huge piles of freight that all breaks down when you have to move small loads or few passengers. Still for the last 60 years it seems the planners in North America have had only one solution to traffic. Pave more lanes so the cars don’t have to wait. If the money spent on highways had been spent on railways we would all be so much better off it’s hard to conceive.


    Comment by dave1949 — February 8, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

    • Perhaps the railroad industry has provided value for its stockholders by evolving efficiencies which also provide value for its customers and the auto traffic industry has provided value for its stockholders, not by efficiencies but by marketing campaigns, creating not real but merely perceived value for its customers.


      Comment by montucky — February 8, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

  2. The BNSF locomotive looks familiar to me. We have the tracks seven miles away. That’s a fabulous statistic. Do we ever need to redesign engines for cars or develop mass transportation. Or, possibly reboot the system for village life.


    Comment by Jack Matthews — February 9, 2011 @ 6:26 am

    • What struck me in those numbers was the potential for improvement in all of those areas and I think all of them need work. We have not even begun yet. Even the government bail-out of the auto makers was goal-based with profit as the criteria.


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  3. There is another dimension to this discussion and that is the fact that most large businesses have a just in time ordering cycle. That is the hurdle for the railroads. Until they can tell a costomer that the raw materials they need to make widgets next week will be at their dock at 9:00 am Monday morning most businesses will go with trucks. Once again it’s all about money.


    Comment by Jim — February 9, 2011 @ 7:00 am

    • I have worked with just in time systems. Most of the effective ones actually work well with truck delivery because the vendors build their facilities close to their customers and their shipping is usually very short distances.

      One that fascinates me (and frustrates as well) is logging trucks. Every day I see them on the highway loaded with logs. One going one way and the next going the opposite direction. Then both return empty to get the next load. Talk about a waste of time and fuel!


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  4. So rare to see a train like this these days. Great capture!


    Comment by Marcie — February 9, 2011 @ 7:05 am

    • They are very busy in this area hauling mostly to the port in Seattle. There is even one every week or so carrying aircraft fuselages from the Boeing factory in Kansas to Boeing Seattle for finishing.


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  5. There is something so wonderful about seeing these old trains. I used to live in a small (teeny tiny) town in upstate NY. My house was right near the railroad tracks and shook every time that big ol’ train rumbled by. I eventually got used to it and barely noticed it. Still there was something romantic about it all.


    Comment by Roberta Warshaw — February 9, 2011 @ 7:38 am

    • Yes, there is something about trains. Out house is close enough to the tracks that we can hear them too, and we are used to it. I feel good about them knowing the efficiencies that they present, yet nervous about what they carry.

      One day every time I knew a train was coming I went to where I could see the cars and took a HAZ-MAT book with me. With binocs I could see the placcards on the cars and the book showed me what they were carrying. That can get very scary!


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 11:29 am

  6. Trains are remarkably efficient. The power of a locomotive combined with the efficiency of smooth tracks equates to cheap movement of freight (and humans).

    Perhaps a little to slow for many, it is reasonably safe and a pretty good way to see the countryside as you travel along. High speed rail is one of our President;s new initiatives.

    Ming boggling indeed. How did we come to favor the automobile and trucks. Great American individualism carried too far. But that’s just my opinion.


    Comment by Bill — February 9, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    • Personally I think additional rail would not be efficient, although there can be so much done with how we use what we have. Lots of room for improvement.

      I think you nailed it about American Individualism. I think that created the current state of the automobile, but somehow the cart had gotten in front of the horse (no pun intended). The rail locomotive is specifically designed for the use and efficiency of the railroad. The auto has become the fruition of the wildest and most extravagant dreams of the car companies and their designers, and is then marketed to the consumer, not reacting to demand, but creating demand.

      I doubt that I would be alone in being very happy with vehicles that didn’t have every bell and whistle ever invented but that were simple and efficient (consider the vision of Henry Ford and the model “A”).

      In the mid 90’s I owned a Ford Festiva for a few years. Simple, no frills, extremely functional and pleasant to drive, and gave me consistently 45 MPG. Not like the big muscle 442’s I used to drive in the 70’s but a whole lot more efficient and cost effective.


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  7. Yes it does make one wonder! I miss passenger trains. I rode many as a child and loved the experience!


    Comment by Barbara — February 9, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    • I liked them too. Amtrak still runs one across the northern (High Line) part of Montana. One of my earliest memories was at the passenger depot in Missoula Montana in 1944 when my older brother left on the train headed for the South Pacific.


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

  8. Hi Montucky, Excellent photo of the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe locomotive! I enjoy trains. One of my ancestors was an early railroad owner-builder in the second half of the 19th Century. The family cousins of this gent were owners of a line that in fact, merged into what is now the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe. Excellent post! Have a great day!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — February 9, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

    • We see a lot of these locomotives here. They sure have improved over the years!


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

  9. We just got Amtrak up to Portland from Boston a few years ago. It is very popular, and now they are taking it further up the coast.

    I would love to see more trains.


    Comment by sandy — February 9, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    • I think here could be a lot more done for passenger service between the major cities, but I can’t see any way we could afford it in the sparsely populated west.


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

  10. There’s just something about trains, very Americana, intriguing. This one is a grat color, kind of timeless. That would be a great ride to be on.


    Comment by Candace — February 9, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    • When I was young I rod a passenger train on those tracks from Missoula Montana to Seattle. It was on a moonlit night in winter and I rode in one of the old Vista Dome cars which were all windows.


      Comment by montucky — February 9, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  11. Oh don’t even get me started on our failed railroad system and when that all started! I don’t like to get political in blogs.. LOL. Nice photo though!!


    Comment by kcjewel — February 9, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

  12. Makes me wonder, too! WoW!

    Great shot & that blue sky is fantastic! =)


    Comment by Tricia — February 10, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    • I have way too many pictures of trains, but that sky made it imperative that I have one more.


      Comment by montucky — February 10, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  13. Great shot of a colorful locomotive! I’ve watched the locomotives here in Kansas… about three together… tug a long line of cars filled with coal. I like train photos! 🙂


    Comment by Anna — February 10, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

    • There are two coal trains a day that run through here, each with 110 cars and 3 locomotives in front, 2 in the rear. They are hauling coal from the fields in Wyoming to either the coal-powered electrical generating plant in mid-Washington or to the port of Seattle for shipment to China.


      Comment by montucky — February 10, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

  14. I saw a Modern Marvels episode on trucks a week or so ago. Not good to see that they haul most of our freight when the railroads can do it cheaper and without clogging up our highways.



    Comment by knightofswords — February 11, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

    • The efficiency of the railroads shows me that it can be done if we really want to. Now I wonder what it will take to make us want to. I know there will always be personal cars and truck traffic, but there is so much room there for improvement. Personally I’d go back to an old Model A if it got 50 mpg.


      Comment by montucky — February 11, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

  15. I love the shot. My eyes were nailed on those rough rocks, so different when we have here generally.

    I love locomotives. When as a schoolboy I worked during five summers on a diesel locomotive like You shown here.

    Last Thursday when coming back from the North I saw many of this kind but they were “workhorses” for cargo transport.

    Yet, I wonder how little they consume.


    Comment by sartenada — February 12, 2011 @ 3:32 am

    • Working on the locomotives must have been a very interesting experience. I would like, just once to, ride with the engineer on a trip to the coast and back which would be about a thousand mile trip.


      Comment by montucky — February 12, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

  16. This is a wonderful picture! So much power showed in a very elegant way. So dramatic and yet calm and easy.


    Comment by Giiid — February 15, 2011 @ 3:51 am

    • Thanks Giiid. That’s one of the settings I like best for the trains.


      Comment by montucky — February 15, 2011 @ 11:09 am

  17. LOVE this image… colors and composition are wonderful… and it is a wonder why trains can be so efficient and cars not!


    Comment by Victoria — February 18, 2011 @ 7:48 am

    • I often visit the river here and the tracks run parallel to it. I see them often and always have to take one more photo. One of the remarkable things about them now is that the improvements in the locomotives and the seamless rails makes them very quiet. Good in one sense, but they can sneak up on you if you’re on the tracks, and I’ve noticed, sadly, many more wildlife deaths on the tracks.


      Comment by montucky — February 18, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

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