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BNSF triple tracking New Mexico grade NEWSWIRE

By William P. Diven | March 6, 2018

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A fresh BNSF Railway crew handling westbound stacks charges up the 10-mile grade from Belen, N.M., to Dalies on March 3, 2018. On the left, preliminary work continues on adding a third main line to this section of the Gallup Subdivision. Meanwhile, an eastbound vehicle train in the distance is first in line waiting as all four eastbound fueling pads in Belen Yard are occupied.
William P. Diven
BELEN, N.M. — With the Southern Transcon now double-tracked across New Mexico, BNSF Railway is adding a third main line to ease congestion on the 10-mile grade west of Belen.

The project is the big-ticket item in the $80 million BNSF plans to spend on capital projects in the state this year. About half of the money is aimed at surfacing and other maintenance on 1,600 miles of track and replacing 15 miles of rail and more than 110,000 ties, according to the announcement made last week.

The stretch of third main on the Gallup Subdivision covers the west end of the Belen Cutoff, the 1908 bypass of Raton Pass that turned sleepy Belen into a rail hub and home to a major freight yard and fuel stop. The 10 track miles climbs 500 feet with a ruling grade of 1.25 percent between Belen Junction in the Rio Grande Valley to Dalies where the Glorieta Subdivision from Raton and Albuquerque, N.M., joins BNSF’s transcontinental line.

“The Southern Transcon is the rail equivalent of a superhighway, making it an ideal route for high-priority, containerized traffic,” Keary Wells, BNSF Southern Division general manager of operations, says.

The investment shows the company’s commitment to providing a safe, efficient and reliable rail network for its customers, he says.

BNSF signal maintainers already are involved in relocating signals and crossing gates while other crews are lengthening drainage culverts.

The new main track 1 on the north side of the right-of-way begins at control point Aragon, end of the existing third yard lead from Belen Junction. At Dalies, the Glorieta Subdivision will connect with the new track, which then ties into the existing main track 1 farther west.

Most of the work is within the existing right-of-way, although BNSF representative Joe Sloan tells Trains News Wire the railroad bought more land for the project. Work also will be done on the two existing main tracks to accommodate the third track passing under Interstate 25, Sloan says.

The new main is expected to be ready for traffic in the first quarter of 2019.

During the last seven years, BNSF completed double-tracking the Clovis Subdivision across eastern New Mexico by carving a second route through the bottleneck of Abo Canyon and bridging the Union Pacific at Vaughn and the Pecos River at Fort Sumner. Lengthy sidings between Abo Canyon and Belen aid in staging westbound traffic destined for fuel and inspections at Belen Yard without tying up the main tracks.

The Transcon west of Belen has multiple crossovers but lacks similar sidings making it a chokepoint on busy days when the Transcon may see as many as 80 trains. Freights stacked up waiting for one of four eastbound fuel pads to clear effectively single track the line for westbounds tackling the grade.

Meanwhile BNSF continues to plan for extending four or five tracks at the east end of Belen Yard where the eight main tracks shrink to two approaching the Rio Grande. Local political leaders have expressed concern about the possible closure of Jarales Road, a major local route currently crossing three tracks.

That track project remains in the design phase while BNSF, local government and the New Mexico Department of Transportation continue talks about the crossing and a possible grade-separation project.

9 thoughts on “BNSF triple tracking New Mexico grade NEWSWIRE

  1. If getting through those fuel pads takes as long as it does on Train Dispatcher, they should definitely have more tracks!

  2. Come on, New Mexico!! BNSF, to its credit, has bitten the bullet! Now it’s your turn. Fund a highway crossover for the BNSF mainline! Keep everybody safe and the traffic moving.

    Unfortunately, NMDOT would rather spend monies on other projects that often times have very little benefit to the people (i.e. roads that last longer than 5 years before repaving.) It is usually not until someone (or people) with very heavy legal power force New Mexico off it’s cozy-chair to do something proper. What’s more, I’ve seen too much of BNSF not pushing things, such as a road-bridge for highway traffic, unless they themselves also get forced into the fray, too (i.e. BNSF making a small financial contribution to the West Colton Flyover.)

    If that’s not bad enough, New Mexico is very foolish with monies. After Gov. Martinez is gone, you can be guaranteed that a Democrat gets into Santa Fe and will blow whatever surplus is currently in the coffers on stupid, non-essential things, rather than such items as a road over the BNSF line(s). So, if anything does (or for it to happen) either BNSF, or a local group with legal horsepower, will ultimately force NMDOT to get the ball rolling for Beleners.

  4. Potentially dumb question but why not supplement the fixed location fuel pads with truck-based fueling on sidings east and west of Belen? Could help further expedite movements through Belen.

  5. Charles Mortensen, this is probably off topic here, but I have been looking for the Train Dispatcher that will work with Windows 10. I had lots of territories, but when they upgraded Windows long ago, they wouldn’t work any more. Is there a version for the newer versions of Windows?

    I was an engineer for the BNSF for 30 years. I always like to keep up with their progress. It looks like this is a good improvement for them.

  6. good news, anything to keep the trains rolling, especially on BNSF. I will always think of Frisco as being part of them.

  7. Belen Junction is the last bottleneck on the Transcon here the Clovis Sub headed to Amarillo meets the Pecos Sub headed to El-Paso, the Gallop Sub headed to Winslow and Flagstaff in Arizona and Barstow Yard, ICTF Long Beach, and all the California terminals, and the Glorieta and Ranton Subs headed north to Colorado and Kansas. BNSF needs to fix this junction and tipple track the line North, South, East and West. Not only do freights use this line but also Railrunner and the Southwest Chief and trains can get backed up while freights head to the diesel pits and Railrunner makes station stops this is why a third track is needed.

  8. GEORGE BROWN exactly not only do stopped freights in the diesel pits cause problems but Railrunner also causes problems this is why a third track is needed. We got the Gallop Sub to the west, Clovis Sub to the east, Pecos Sub to the south, and Glorieta and Ranton to the north. This is a bottleneck and it needs to be fixed.

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