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notes on building a “Super Railroad”

I got this information from a Sierra Club email list I am on that has some useful technical information about how to build a really first class railroad. This comment was posted by Clyde L. Anderson, Treasurer, Nebraska Chapter – Sierra Club [email address: remove spaces: Clyde L Anderson (near somewhere around) ] in response to a discussion about the secretly proposed NAFTA “super-highway”, discussed here. I thought others would be interested in the technical details.

Some key technical data that I found interesting is highlighted.

Using a combination of the best rail routes between Laredo and Kansas City, we could build a Super Railroad with a capacity exceeding the capacity of the proposed NAFTA Super Highway while occupying only a 125-ft right-of-way. (Modern railway lines are built on 25-ft centers, but most of our existing multiple-track routes were built decades ago on 15-ft or smaller centers. If track centers are at least 25 ft, the FRA allows trains to pass track maintenance operations without shutting down the maintenance work.)

What’s need is a well-engineered double-track railroad with modern signaling system, universal crossovers every 10-15 miles, 10,000-ft sidings every 15 miles (for slower trains to pull off the main lines to allow faster trains to overtake them), and 4 main tracks through major terminals like San Antonio and Ft. Worth. Grade separations would also be needed where the NAFTA Railroad crosses other major rail routes, such as the Sunset Route in San Antonio.

Think of the energy savings of using trains instead of trucks. If the NAFTA Railroad was electrified, look at all of the energy options available to propel the trains — solar, wind, biofuels, etc. ) [China has a goal of electrifying 2,000 km per year of its rail routes as a means to reduce its dependence on oil.]

The closest thing the U.S. has to a super freight railroad is Union Pacific’s busy route across Nebraska which handles more tonnage than any other rail route in the world. The huge terminal at North Platte is also the world’s largest. Unfortunately, the route is not electrified, so North Platte has the world’s biggest railroad fueling facility because all of the trains are powered by diesel-electric locomotives.

Posted in sierraclub, transportation.

2 Responses

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  1. Adron says

    One can chop that diesal engine usage up to being less expensive in the short term. Because freight prices have been depressed by road subsidizations for tractor trailers the electrification of major rail routes that was underway between the 1920-1940s is long dead. Instead of making railroads work more efficiently the trend became to make the more “strategic” to deal with the subsidized competition.

    The beauty of the Milwaukee Road is evidence of this. An absolutely amazing, and very modern railroad, with 110mph+ trains, hundreds of miles of electrified track, and modern passenger trains with all the amenities starting in the 1930s. Then came highway subsidies, the interstates, and the destruction of this great railroad.

  2. Tamekia Canoy says

    Merely wanna tell that this is very helpful, Thanks for taking your time to write this.

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