Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Tieing Them Up

This morning I heard the Union Pacific local (the "Fernley Flyer") tell the dispatcher that they needed some time on the main line because they had some cars to switch into the "house track." That is unusual because the two house tracks (so called because they flank the site of the former Fernley depot; a "house track" or "freight house track" is track other than the main track near a depot or freight house used for storing or switching cars) are normally the preserve of BNSF, switched by a local train five days a week and used as the interchange point for traffic off the "Big BN" through freights. So despite the cold, when I heard the Flyer approaching, I went out to see what was going on.

Spot the Bunny

The first thing I noticed was that one of the local rabbits was sheltering at the base of the mountain of ties left here by the tie-replacement project that came through a few weeks ago. My camera phone can only go up to a 4x zoom, so this was as close as I could get. The bunny, once seen, cannot be unseen, but take my word for it that the rabbit is there.

The nearer of the house tracks is visible in front of the pile of ties. The Flyer is stopped on the main line behind the pile. The trainman visible to the left is setting hand breaks on the Flyer's train so that they can cut off the cars they plan to shove into the house track. The other house track is between the tie pile and the main line.

Tie Removal

Here's what the Flyer left us: a train of open gondolas and open-top containers. Shortly after the Flyer tied down these cars, collected the rest of its train, and headed for Sparks, a work crew arrived with a crane and started loading the ties into these containers. Later, I saw that silly rabbit still running around in the area. I think the rabbits might have built a burrow under the mountain of ties, thinking it was a safe place; if so, they are about to be very disappointed.

Wooden railroad ties are treated with creosote to prevent rot, and consequently are difficult to dispose of. Burning them is not easy, but there are some cogeneration plants that have the ability to burn the ties and deal with the noxious byproducts, and also generate electricity in the process, which is probably better than just dumping them into landfills. A few get recycled into gardening supplies, where they are useful for building raised flower beds. We have several of them here on the property. If we'd needed more, we probably would have gone over and collected them when things were quiet.

Disposal of used wooden ties is a serious and expensive issue for the railroads. I'm glad that this pile of ties is about to leave Fernley, for selfish reasons: it has been blocking our view of the main line!
Tags: "union pacific", trains, wildlife

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