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Diesel locomotive pooling

By | June 15, 2017

Ask Trains from the May 2015 issue

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Two Canadian Pacific trains, with motive power from CP, CSX Transportation, and Norfolk Southern, meet near Oconomowoc, Wis., in November 2014.
Brian Schmidt
Q It is common to see a train from one railroad which is powered, partially or fully, by locomotives from another railroad. Why does this happen so frequently and how is the railroad compensated for the use of their locomotive(s)? – Paul Brankle, Westfield, Ind.

A Motive power sharing among Class I railroads has been a common sight for 40 years. Pooled power agreements, often called “run-through power,” streamline the interchange process.

Railroads are able to exchange trains without exchanging locomotives, which saves time and money. These arrangements are usually billed by the horsepower hour, meaning railroads pay for the power of a given locomotive for the time it is used. Sometimes, when the train reaches its destination, the power is used for other jobs by the receiving railroad before being sent back home.

This arrangement can lead to extended stays for locomotives on “foreign” railroads, and the appearance of such units on routes without run-through trains. – Brian Schmidt

8 thoughts on “Diesel locomotive pooling

  1. I first witnessed “pooled power operations” in southern Indiana, when the old Southern and fledgling Burlington Northern formed their Galesburg-Louisville run-through trains. For the most part, the pool used SD24’s of both roads, but the coolest power consist I ever saw was made up of a Great Northern RS3, SP&S C636, Northern Pacific F-7B and CB&Q low-nose SD24. After witnessing the passing of this train, I turned around and followed the Louisville, New Albany & Corydon’s 45-tonner “Betty Sue” back to Corydon!

  2. Uhh, did GN bring any RS3’s into the BN merger? Does anybody have a photo of a Burlington SD24 with a low nose? Just curious; sounds like quite the interesting locomotive consist.

  3. every railroad operates pool. for example the Fruit Express operated by UP it has UP power from Washington and California to Rochelle and CSX pilot units all the way to New York sometimes CSX just takes the UP units to New York and gives the train back to UP at Elkhart once it is empty. even the Class 2s also pool Utah Rail uses BNSF power to get its trains to Grand Junction where they interchange with BNSF who takes the train to Denver and Watco they use UP and BNSF as their interchange partners and use their engines to deliver cars to their main yards. a modeled example of pooling is the MR&T where we see WSOR, the fictitious MR&T, CN, CP Rail, UP,and BNSF engines on the layout.

  4. Very interesting, but it does not answer several questions, such as: What happens with scheduled maintenance or if there is a maintenance problem when the locomotive is not on home rails?

  5. If a unit is due for scheduled maintenance or minor repair it might be conducted by the leasing road. With a major problem it will be sent home.

  6. I wondered when I’d first see “foreign” engines on other roads or in the old Frisco yards where Dad worked. Then I found out about pooled power but this explains it very well. Thanks, it still seems strange, but I least I understand the reasoning behind it.

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