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BNSF Completes Third Rail Line through Cajon Pass

BNSF Railway recently completed construction of a third main rail line through Cajon Pass in Southern California that will increase capacity on BNSF’s Chicago to Los Angeles Transcontinental (Transcon) route from 100 to 150 trains a day. The $90 million project adds almost 16 miles of third main track to BNSF’s route into the Los Angeles Basin.

BNSF operated its first train on the third and final segment of the Cajon Pass triple-tracking project on 3 November. Click to enlarge.

Cajon Pass is located between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountain ranges, just north of the City of San Bernardino. Approximately 75 to 100 freight and passenger trains currently traverse this route on a daily basis. Each intermodal train on these tracks can take more than 250 long-haul trucks off of the region’s local highways. Additionally, freight trains are more fuel-efficient than trucks and can move one ton of freight more than 400 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel.

Over the last four years, more than 300 BNSF employees and contractors worked on the Cajon Pass project. In that time, crews moved more than 1 million tons of earth, placed approximately 42,000 concrete railroad ties, and laid more than 30 miles of steel rail. The construction of this track represents the first additional BNSF main track through Cajon Pass since the second line was constructed in 1913, nearly 100 years ago.

BNSF and UP railroads each have major rail corridors into the Los Angeles Basin. Forecasted combined daily traffic volume for the east/west rail corridors is 390 trains by 2025.



Triple tracking is good, and trains are cleaner than trucks.

My question is, does the estimate of train traffic of 390 trains per day, in 2025 make allowances for shipping shifting trade routes in other continents?

I refer to a potential decrease in LA/LB Port activity: due to the current widening of the Panama canal by the Chinese, and the increasing use of Europe/Asia train line which recently opened.


4 years to lay down a 16-mile line?

damn, no wonder we don't have real train service in most of parts of this country.


"4 years to lay down a 16-mile line?"
There must not be enough Coolies and Irishman this Century ;-)


Now they need to electrify the lines. With regenerative breaking on the order of 10,000 kwh/train could be recovered as they descend into the valley.

Henry Gibson

It would not be difficult to add the electric third rail system that was used in Britain until recently for the chunnel trains. The chunnel trains now have a high speed track, but other trains still use the third rail system. Sodium Sulfur batteries might be connected to the third rail for energy storage. Vanadium Redox Batteries are also a good match. A large insulated pipe filled with cheap sodium can be buried under the track to make a cheap very good conductor for the low voltage.

Flywheels in the train can compensate for the necessary gaps in the third rail until the engine can take the load if going up hill or resistors if going down. High frequency DC to DC converters can match the internal train voltage to that of the third rail. GE has already tested ZEBRA batteries in hybrid locomotives with success except for their high cost.

The extra capacity rail is at least very interesting, but it also points to the fact that many businesses that use the large amounts of highway freight have been encouraged to use highway trucks and locate far from rail service. A case in point is the distribution center of WALMART on I15 in Southern Utah. The location is about as far as I15 or any freeway in Utah gets from rail service. A similar facility north of Las Vegas NV could be right on the tracks. No energy saving with solar cells at Walmart can make up for the loss caused by not using railroad containers or piggyback shipping.

A high-speed freight only rail line has been built in Holland to move freight directly to Germany. US railroads are effectively freight only. Las Vegas NV ought to have loading facilities and trains to take people and their cars home to LA area late Sunday Night.

Instead of magnetic levitation, tilting trains could have magnetic attraction to the rails to run at high speeds on ordinary lines. It might be more cost effective to design rails and railcar suspensions that employ mechanical locking on some track sections. Some cog railways have such systems.

There is also the special L55 V rail that can be directly built into ordinary street and highway pavements for example.

It is possible with such a rail to make highway transport more efficient and highway maintenance less costly. Special container railcars could have both tires and flanged steel wheels, and the steel wheels could be used with higher efficiency and less wear where the highway had L55 rails. There may even be some relatively rare rail entrances and exits so that standard railcars could be used on some segments of roads and highways that connected with railines. It would only need a slight modification of the semitrailer truck to pull ordinary or modified railcars on a L55 rail highway. The rubber tired railcars could also be made to be able to be put into any ordinary freight train consist.

The highway rails can also be used for electrification. Several ways can be used to do this with relative safety. The obvious simplest and possibly least safe method is to just electrify each rail with about three-hundred volts between them. Methods for mounting the V rail even allow such voltages. They obviously could not also be running ordinary rail cars which would short them out without protection circuits. The use of a third rail then comes to mind almost immediately, but there have been and can be many solutions. Installing electrification on highways is now cheap compared to their building and maintenance.

Electric hybrid cars can be used with slight modification on such electrified roads. There is at least one company that is advertising a bolt-on hybrid that also could use such electrified highways as well.

There is no doubt that simpler less obvious modifications to cars can be made to make use of the availability of electricity even if it is only using the electricity to allow the alternator to be deactivated for a while.

Any newly designed car should have electric air conditioning even if it must be run with an enlarged alternator. This allows the whole system to be mounted on the frame and welded sealed for life. It also allows for precooling of the car without the engine running and keeping the car cool or warm if electricity is available. LG has very high efficiency free piston compressors that can be modified for high voltage

In parts of the world there are plugs for keeping the car warm and in other parts of the world there could be plugs for keeping the car cool. The car could even have a few pounds of ice storage for continued cooling on cheap electricity.

It is very easy to invent and build a railcar that can unload a container onto a flat area of ground or onto a highway trailer, so that about any place along a rail line can be used as a transfer station. In many places, the containers are low enough in value to let goods be stored for months until moved. It is too bad that many rail lines were eliminated by the false cheapness of freeway travel. Trucks wear the road thousand of times more than cars. The fuel taxes should be high enough to have all trucks pay enough for the full wear, cars too. Then the idea of capital costs may be addressed.

Rail service is and important way to reduce freight transportation energy and other costs. It may also reduce passenger transportation costs. As said earlier, there is no doubt that there should be car carrying trains between Las Vegas and the LA area. Taking the cars by train is much cheaper than driving them. Perhaps California would allow a sealed train with gambling cars that can be occupied whilst the train is moving. There will be more demand for a late sunday return train. Perhaps even a sleeper. ..HG..


Don't want to belittle California's rail building effort but China is building 22 000 Km of new rails in the same time frame to raise the country from 78 000 Km to 100 000 Km.

Fully electrified, hybrid and even diesel locomotives are much more efficient than trucks & buses to haul freight, trailers or people.

Highways would require a lot less maintenance if heavy trucks and trailers were to be hauled on rails.

Imported oil & GHG could be reduced, especially when the 53-ft trailers are taken to local final destinations with e-tractors.

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