January 04, 2006

last updated: 12/02/06

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During the course of my move from Indianapolis to Seattle, I spent a day exploring Wyoming's Powder River Basin. After spending the night at a hotel in Douglas, I awoke well before dawn and headed north.

Logan Hill, WY It was almost entirely overcast at sunrise, with the clouds filtering the light to an unusual purple cast. In this view to the northeast from the summit of Logan Hill, an empty UP train approaches Nacco Jct. while, in a the foreground, a second empty and an eastbound load meet on the west slope of the hill. In the distance is North Antelope Rochelle Mine.

Logan Hill, WY Coincidentally, I happened to be visiting the Orin Subdivision on the same day that BNSF attempted to cut over the dispatcher's desk to new software, and scenes like this occurred throughout the day as the dispatcher struggled with software issues throughout the day. On the east slope of Logan Hill, two loads and an empty are stopped just below the summit while, in the distance, another load heads east towards Bill.

Converse Jct., WY I moved down to Converse Junction at the bottom of Logan Hill, where the Antelope Mine trackage diverges from the Orin Sub. An empty UP train descends the hill as a load gets ready to depart from Antelope Mine.

Converse Jct., WY After the empty passed, the loaded train throttled up and departed on Main 3.

Converse Jct., WY The clear signal at Converse Junction was for this loaded BNSF train, the C-NAMCEB0-06A, departing from North Antelope Rochelle Mine. The sun popped out just long enough for me to capture the shot in the reverse curve between Nacco Junctino and Converse Junction; by the time the train had rounded the curve and met another empty UP train at Converse, the sun was already slipping back behind the clouds.

Wright, WY With the goal of my trip being to explore instead of sittng in one spot all day, I headed north and was excited to find that Antelope Road passed right by Antelope Mine's active pit. The mining equipment was idle when I took these photos, but you can easily see just how much coal lies undergound in the PRB. Those little white things down in the pit are full-size work trucks. To the south are the maintenance facilities and rail loadouts.

Wright, WY A clear signal at MP 60.9 suggested that an eastbound train was nearby, so I parked at the Antelope Road grade crossing and waited for the C-CAMMOL0-01A to roll by on Main 3.

Wright, WY The active pit at North Antelope Rochelle Mine.

Wright, WY Further north at South Black Thunder Mine, one BNSF load (the C-SBMPAM0-01A) is waiting for a crew at the mainline switch while a second load (the C-SBMMLT0-02A) has departed the loadout and is slowing to a stop behind the first train. In the distance, an empty train is ready to begin loading.

Wright, WY A half-hour later, the sun had appeared from behind the clouds and would remain out for most of the remainder of the day. At Crossover 47.3, a westbound UP empty and an eastbound BNSF load had both been stopped because of the dispatching problems, but within 10 minutes both trains were on the move.

Wright, WY Continuing northward, I found an empty UP train stopped at the signals adjacent to the Lawyer Road overpass.

Cordero Jct., WY At Cordero Mine, part of Rio Tinto's Cordero Rojo Complex, BNSF train C-CDMKCL0-01A is just about to finish loading as empty train E-BENBTM1-36A decends the hill into the valley of the Belle Fourche River.

Gillette, WY Alongside Bishop Road, a retired bucket-wheel excavator is parked on top of a hill.

Wyodack, WY On the Black Hill Subdivision at Wyodack, an empty E-SPCEBM1-71A bound for Eagle Butte Mine departs Gillette behind a quartet of EMD SD60-series units. In the second shot, the train is approaching the Wyodak Power Plant.

Gillette, WY Red dust coats my Jeep as I refuel in Gillette.

Wright, WY Yet another traffic jam, this one at Coal Creek Junction: An empty sits on Main 1 while a load works eastward on Main 2; in the distance is the last UP empty I shot at Converse Junction earlier in the morning and, further out, a loaded train on the Cordero Mine loop.

Logan Hill, WY At the end of the day, the sun's last rays slipped out below the cloud deck to caress the summit of Logan Hill.