News & Reviews News Wire BNSF Railway hopes to reopen fire-damaged Northern California main this month

BNSF Railway hopes to reopen fire-damaged Northern California main this month

By Bill Stephens | October 7, 2021

Massive Dixie Fire shut Gateway Subdivision on July 21

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Worker on lift inside tunnel
Crews install new wall plates in Tunnel 4 near Keddie, Calif., on Sept. 14. (BNSF Railway)

FORT WORTH, Texas — BNSF Railway hopes to have its fire-damaged Inside Gateway main line linking the Pacific Northwest and Northern California back in service later this month.

The Gateway Subdivision between Stockton, Calif., and Klamath Falls, Ore., has been out of service since July 21, when the Dixie Fire approached the railroad and later severely damaged a pair of bridges and collapsed a timber-lined section of Tunnel 4 just north of the famed Keddie Wye.

Bridge with smoldering deck
The Dixie Fire damaged timber decking on two bridges, although the bridge structures remained sound. (BNSF Railway)

The Dixie Fire, which has scorched more than 963,000 acres in Northern California since July 13, is now 94% contained, fire officials say.

“BNSF engineering teams are completing a major project to repair a damaged tunnel just north of Keddie, Calif.,” the railroad said in a customer advisory on Friday. “The tunnel is expected to re-open as soon as mid-month, with a re-opening of the full affected main line shortly thereafter, if conditions allow.”

Crews began making repairs to the 470-foot tunnel in mid-August. “Restoration efforts are nearly complete to restore the roof and walls,” BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent says.

The wildfire also destroyed the timber decks of two bridges, a 120-foot span at Milepost 199.66 and a 510-foot bridge at Milepost 198.5, both of which have been repaired. The steel spans and substructures of the bridges survived the fire and were not damaged, Kent says.

BNSF has been forced to reroute traffic via Denver, Amarillo, Texas, and Barstow, Calif., as well as via trackage rights over Union Pacific between Denver and Northern California. The detours have added several days to normal transit times.

The Gateway Sub handles an average of six trains per day, BNSF says.

Map showing closed rail line in red and detour through nine states in blue
BNSF was forced to shut the Gateway Subdivision on July 21 as the Dixie Fire threatened the main line. The shutdown created long detours for traffic moving between the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. (BNSF Railway)

3 thoughts on “BNSF Railway hopes to reopen fire-damaged Northern California main this month

  1. It seems to me if BNSF was running a mere 6 trains a day over the Gateway that UP could have accommodated them between Sacramento and Klamath Falls.

    1. Since BNSF closed the Gateway Line, I’ve seen BNSF trains pull off the UP line on which they have trackage rights and go into their yard at Klamath Falls, OR, and once inspected by their mechanical department, push backwards onto the UP line and then continue south on UP’s Black Butte Subdivision to Sacramento. I assume from there they can continue east through the Feather River line to Keddie where it connects with their Gateway Line. It would seem a logical way to by-pass the Gateway Line while it is being repaired, but I don’t know if that’s what is happening. If someone happens to know, I’d appreciate hearing. Thanks

  2. Just imagine if the Modoc line was still existed…though it probably would’ve been affected as well.

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