BNSF takeover of Montana Rail Link comes after decades of rapid growth | State and Region
On the southern line, this investment meant building multiple rail spur lines over a mile long so that trains approaching each other could pass, ideally, without one stopping. . The railway vernacular for such an interchange is the ability to “meet-pass”.
The railroad also laid tracks to accommodate coal trains bound for the Pacific Northwest. The 2010s were explosive years for coal exports from Montana and Wyoming, beginning with the development of the Signal Peak Mine, which was built primarily for exports and connected to the Southern Line by a 35-mile rail spur from long.
Coal mines like Spring Creek and Decker have been expanded for sale to countries in the Asia-Pacific region, with the coal passing through Westshore Terminal in British Columbia. At its peak, Montana shipped about 40 million tons of coal annually. All of this coal came from the southern part of the state into BNSF territory and passed through MRL’s service area on its way to the port.
There’s a saying that “it’s hard to stop a train”, but Steven Read says it’s harder to run a train once it’s been dumped. The President of Global Coal Sales Group manages shipments of coal from the Signal Peak mine to customers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Signal Peak, Montana’s only underground coal mine, is about 35 miles north of Billings. The company has its own 35-mile track connected to the BNSF South Route. On the mine side, there is a rail loop long enough to accommodate a mile-long train. Coal cars crawl through the loop at about three-quarters of a mile an hour, each passing under a chute for refilling.