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Train watching

By Staff | May 1, 2015

Railroad tracks pass by within a quarter-mile of our home. Every train that passes by gets noticed and usually observed.

We can see for a distance so we can look to see how long it is, how many locomotives are pulling the railcars, the different types of cars and if it looks especially long, the cars get counted.

We have seen trains pulled by five or six locomotives with one locomotive at the rear pushing.

The trains vary in length from around 15 cars to one train I counted with 184 cars.

Most trains are in the area of 100 cars with longer ones going over 130 cars.

We see tanker cars and hopper bottom cars designed to carry bulk commodities most of the time. The hopper bottom cars can have two, three, four, and five hoppers on them.

North bound trains seem to be empty because only two or three locomotives pull them.

South bound trains have more locomotives, more cars, and seem to be loaded as they go by.

Even our visitors have become train watchers and the grandchildren will run to the window when they hear the whistle.

Okay, grandparents run to the window, too.

When a train of more than 00 cars goes by traveling south, I wonder what is in the cars.

The short cars with two hopper bottoms are carrying something especially heavy, I am guessing fracking sand headed for the southern oilfields.

The longer ones can have corn, soybeans, dried distiller’s grain, and who knows what else.

The tankers will have ethanol from the two ethanol plants located along the tracks, probably oil from North Dakota,and some things I don’t have any idea about what is in them.

Then there is the number of trains that go by each day, both day and night.

There seems to be A long one about 4 a.m. and a long one about 4 p.m. with shorter ones throughout the day.

Occasionally there will be around a 100-car train with just hopper bottom cars, especially ones that I know can carry grain.

How many acres does it take to fill a 100-car train?

Each car has a number on it and the railroads know what is in each car and its destination. How do they keep it all straight?

The first question I want to ask the railroad is when I see that last locomotive go by that is pushing from the rear, how do they get it to work with the other locomotives that are pulling at the front of the train?

I can’t see anyone in the cab of that tail end locomotive running the controls, so how do they do it?

And if we are lucky enough to be on the gravel road only 100 feet or so away from the train, then we wave to the engineer as he passes by.

And if we are really lucky, one or more of the grandchildren are with us, then everybody waves and maybe we even get a blast from the whistle of the locomotive.

At that point, we are all smiling little kids getting a thrill from the toot of the passing train.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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