Why we see so many coal trains

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by FiatFan, Mar 10, 2007.

  1. FiatFan

    FiatFan Member

    I found this article on MSNBC this morning. Interesting reading in and of itself but the last paragraph on the first page really caught my attention. According to the article, once the power plant is on line, it "will require a fresh train of coal every 16 to 17 hours; each train will be nearly 1.5 miles long and lug 135 cars about 650 miles from Wyoming's Powder River Basin" to service the plant and another plant adjacent to the new one.

    That's a lot of coal


  2. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    man thats alot of coal
  3. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    There is also a reserve good for three days at the Colorado Springs power plants, to prevent loss of power due to a derailment holding up deliveries or a blizzards stopping the trains.

    On the mainline a couple of miles from me, the trains, coal and freight, run by constantly, probably at least one every 30 mnutes or so, 24/7. The trains from Wyoming service Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and continue all the way to Trinidad and Walsenburg. There is a mainline north and a seperate mainline south, but when trackwork has to be done, there are as many as four coal trains stretching back to the north waiting to clear the Palmer Lake signals. We once drove by waiting trains for fourteen miles.

    When it's still and quiet late at night, or the wind is just right, I can hear the whistle blow for the Palmer Lake road crossing, a sound that reminds me that some parts of America never sleep.
  4. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    I know it's pretty insignificant in the grand scheme but sometimes I wonder if displacing that much mass has any impact on Earth's rotation / revolution. As a comparison, though, the Moon shifts trillions of tons of ocean water four times a day. So maybe all this coal being moved a couple thousand miles really isn't that big of a deal.
  5. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Actually, the moon is continually lifting a considerable amount of ocean water as it "travels" over the world's oceans. It seems that it is a cyclical movement (4 times a day) because we are at a fixed point, and the water rises and lowers depending on where the moon is at relative to our position...
  6. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Humans are quite the geomorphic agent. Somewhere buried in a textbook or some notes I have a comparison of how much material humans move per year versus rivers, glaciers, and other natural means. If I remember, i will look it up.

    And a slight correction about the moon - The tides are slightly more complicated than simply the moon's gravity displacing water. One high tide per day is created by the moon, the other is techniclally the centrifugal "force" of the rotating mass of water bluging the water outward. And not just the water rises and falls under the pull of the moon's gravity - the land mas of the earth does as well, to a much smaller extent. And the sun causes tides, too.

  7. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    The coal doesn't do anything about the rotation of the earth. That dam in China, the Three Gorges one, does, but it is not enought to actually effect anything, as it is like a 10th of a milimeter or something for the rotation of the earth.

    Coal is extremely damaging to Earth's atmosphere, however. When coal is burned, it puts out CO2, which is a greenhouse gas, and traps heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Global warming already contributed to the severity of Katrina (but not to it's existence). Global warming is the single most serious threat to man kind and many species of animals (although mosquitos want global warming, as they will multiply many times over in a warmer climate).

    The biggest threat is sea level rise, which is predicted to be 3-10 feet in the next century, and more beyond that. Humans need to stop burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, and switch to renewable green energy to reduce our CO2 output 80% from year 2000 levels by 2050 if we want to avoid disaster worldwide. Global warming has already caused droughts and storms in other parts of the world, and third world countries are much more seceptible to damage than first world ones.

    If you want to learn more about global warming, get Al Gore's An Inconveient Truth. Whether or not you like Gore, it is a great, scientifically mostly accurate movie about the threats of global warming. He does, however, use the highest sea level rise predictions of 20 feet, which are unlikely to happen in this century. If you find websites or articles that are skeptical about humans' impact on global warming, trace their funding, you can usually trace it to a "think tank" that is mostly funded by US coal mining interests or Exon-Mobil. They want to pollute, and they want to keep doing it unchecked.

    Some players in the US power industry see the problem. The CEO of Xcel energy is quoted as saying about reducing CO2 emissions, "give us a target, and we will meet it", in reference to governmental regulation of CO2 emissions. They have already converted coal power plants to cleaner burning natural gas, which is a stopgap measure, but still progress in the right direction.

    The government's (Bush's) irresposible leadership in reducing US CO2 emissions, which are 30% of the world's CO2 emissions with 5% of the population has also screwed up the power grid. Companies can't justify spending $100M+ on a new multi-GW coal power plant, as if the government starts acting responsibly, and regulates CO2 emissions, the plant would have to be shut down before it recoups even part of its cost, along with many older plants, but if they build a highly efficient dual cycle supercritical coal gasification plant with CCS (carbon capture and storage, a technology to shove a pure CO2 stream from coal gasification deep in the ground, where it stays pretty much forever), or newer, reneable energy sources like solar (with steam generators, not PV solar), or wind, they won't be able to compete in the power market that is run largely by older, atmosphereically vented coal and natural gas plants.

    Thus, power companies aren't investing in anything, and the number of nuclear plants has gone down, as well as some older oil plants have disappeared, at the same time as power consumption has gone up. That is not a good thing for the grid.

    The US needs to lead in investing in new, renewable technologies, and help other countries, like China, to stop increasing their CO2 emissions. In fact, China is building coal power plants every week, increasing CO2 emissions rapidly. If the US takes the lead with renewables, we can create a huge number of jobs, and the worldwide market for renewable energy can be huge, like hundreds of billions of dollars.

    The other side of the equation is the cars. Cars use a lot of gas, which also puts out CO2. There are many solutions for cars. The first is increasing fleet fuel economy from 20mpg to 40 or 50 mpg. The next is using ethanol instead of gasoline. All new cars in the US (and worldwide) should be required to run on any mixture of pure ethanol to pure gasoline, offering a gradual conversion, and the ability to use the new environmentally friendly fuel, while using gasoline when ethanol is not available. This feature is not available with the bogus technology hydrogen.

    Hybrids can also help, as they are more efficient. In fact, if they are designed to be sporty, they can use the electric motors to have BOTH better economy and better acceleration, unlike the current breed of hybrids which are mostly geared toward economy only.

    The next technology, if the power grid is beefed up with renewables, is the plug in car. Either pure electric cars or plug in hybrids are both more efficient than current cars. Plug in hybrids use electricity to get about 100mpg, which EV's use electicity only, although they can be outfitted with a ~100hp generator, so that they can go on long trips. They would drastically outperform a gas car, as the batteries can kick out like 400hp for a few seconds to accelerate, and then go back to 40hp for sustained driving, and recapture energy while braking. All of these are also solutions for reducing foreign oil consumption.

    So how do trains fit it in? Trains use 1/3rd the energy, and thus 1/3rd the CO2 per mile ton of freight, and they stop highway congestion, so they are part of the solution. They are also part of the problem, as they are the enablers for the big coal polluters. They are also part of the solution, making ethanol possible, without expensive pipelines. They are also part of the solution to reduce car use with communter trains.

    Lastly what can you do to reduce your carbon footprint? The simplest is to reduce your energy consumption. This also has the pleasant side-effect of saving money, so you have more to spend on your trains. :D The easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint is to use more efficient technologies to do the same job with less energy.

    The first, and most money saving is compact flourescent light bulbs. They use 75% less energy, run cooler, and they last 10X as long as incadescent models. I have about 85 of them, they are great. Flourescent tubes are also great for garages, basements, and workshops. Replacing all the bulbs in your house is easy, as Wal-Mart stocks a zillion of them. They pay for themselves and start saving $$$ in a few months to two years, depending on how much you use the lights.

    Next is heating and cooling. Make sure your furnace is well maintained, and hire a contractor if nececary to insulate and check all of your ducting or other heating equipment to make sure there are no leaks. Also, attics could usually benefit from some more insulation. When you use heating or cooling, don't overdo it. 60ish is fine for heating, and if you really need AC, 75-78 is usually sufficient. If you are hot, try a fan, not the AC. It actually works better with less energy.

    As far as electronics, don't run computers when you don't need them, and if you forget to turn them off, set them to go to sleep after 10 minutes. When you buy a new one, make sure it is energy efficient. Apple computers are very efficient, and have good sleep modes. Many Windows laptops are also efficient (and convenient and portable to the train roon :D). Many Windows desktops are energy hogs. If you use one, just turn it off when you are not using it. VCRs or other stuff that isn't used often should be unplugged, or turned off with a power strip, as these are "vampires" that just suck juice all the time. The same is true for cell phone and battery chargers, or any sort of wall wart (including your DCC gear). Use them when you need them, but don't just leave them plugged in. This also helps if there is a big surge.

    The next time you buy a car, make sure it gets at least 40mpg, 60mpg is even better. Hybrids are great, there are a few electric cars coming on the market in the next few years (~150-200mpg equivalent in both cost and CO2 output). If you have a predicatable and boring communte, one of these is just the ticket, although you will probably still want a hybrid for longer family trips. Plug in cars are much cheaper to operate, and with a pure EV, you never have to go to the gas station!

    As with energy, whether in the home or on the road, try to drive less, and use less energy. Turn things off if you aren't using them, etc.

    Also, when you buy stuff, try to avoid buying disposable things as much as you can, and try to avoid buying things with superflous packaging, as this all takes energy to make to transport. Meat takes more energy to make than non meat products, so eating less meat helps the earth AND your arteries. Vegetarianism is the extreme of this, but I can't say I have cut back termendously on my own meat consumption or advocate doing so more than a little bit.

    Lastly, in some areas, you can buy green energy, they basically charge an extra $.01 per KwH, and offset your energy use by putting green, renewable energy like small scale hydro, landfill gas, or wind, into the grid. There are also carbon offsets, so you can be "carbon neutral" although it is hard to figure out where the money is going, or how it offsets the carbon.

    There is lots more information online about saving energy and starting to be part of solution, because just about everyone in the US is part of the problem. Also, urge your Congress Critters (or equivalent for other countries) to do something about global warming. There is also going to be a massive protest called Step It UP 2007! on April 14 to protest Congress's inaction on global warming and push for a plan for an 80% cut in emissions by 2050. There are many websites about global warming and how you can cut your carbon footprint online, and remember, if the site is skeptical about global warming, try to trace the funding back to Exxon-Mobil. Thats usually where it comes from. :(

    EDIT: Spelling
  8. oldtanker

    oldtanker Member

    Makes me wonder about the 6 or 7 lead scientist who were working on the UN global warming and quit because they say that it's junk science that is putting out the global warming data and the warming we are seeing right now is just a natural warming of the earth?

    Man thats a lot of coal. The BNSF line that runs along US hwy 10 in MN has many trains a day that are very long hauling coal out of ND to points east. I'm not happy about that much coal being consumed.

  9. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    NY - I think you would be happier posting on another site since this forum should deal mostly with train issues and not subjects that lead into wild opposing views of the environment. I have to bite my tongue as I should and stick to the subject matter.

    In any event Pennsylvania had a unique concept that I think dates back to the 1960’s. Other states also did the same but the scale in Pennsylvania was the largest. That was to build the power plant where the coalmines were located. It was a simple and effective idea.

    The power plants where built in the coalfields and each were supplied by their own group of mines. It was nothing to see hundreds of coal cars lined up on the tracks leading into the power plants. At some plants the conveyor just went straight from the mine to the power plant.

    Today the power plants are still there but many of the mines are closed due to various reasons so much of the coal in now trucked long distances to the power plants. To bad they didn’t build them near the larger rivers since the cheapest way to ship coal is by river barge. I do believe it is still coal that keeps most every railroad in business since they ship 70% of all coal by rail.

    [FONT=&quot]As a kid it was just amazing to see so much rail traffic near those large power plants. Today in Pennsylvania you can still see the lifeblood of America being transported by rail in long consists that any rail fan would enjoy viewing.[/FONT]
  10. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    Yes .. I enjoy the hobby to avoid all that poli-phyc geo earth warming stuff.
    W V can handle all the coal the nation needs and toss in the sulfur for free.

    Maybe we should heat and light with wood, a renewable resoursesign1
  11. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    The concentrations of CO2 are higher than they have been in hundreds of thousands of years, and there is a direct corrolatin between CO2 concentrations and the temperature of the earth. The debate about global warming is over. It is real. It is bad. We still don't know how bad the effects are, and there is, of course, debate as to what we should do about global warming, and how we shoud meet energy needs in the world in a lower carbon way.

    As for scientists saying it doesn't exist, the vast majority agree that it is happening, except for the few that are paid by Exxon-Mobil or the mining associations, or other big polluters. Even many of them admit it is happening and caused by humans, they just say that it is so little that it makes little difference for anything, which is not true. It does affect things, but again no one knows that exact magnitude of these effects.

    This stuff is sorta relavent to the thread, as reducing CO2 emissions will effect the railroads. More ethanol, less coal. The railroads haul both. More commuters riding trains and fewer cars. The railroads haul both. Also, I wan't the one who brought up messing up the earth's rotation by moving stuff. That is even more off topic, although an interesting though nonetheless.

    Interesting points about power plants near mines. This makes more sense than bringing it from Powder River Basin. Trucking coal is big $$$$, it probably drives electricity prices up a bit in those areas. Those can't be huge plants either, there is just no way to move two unit trains a day by truck. If there are two trucks per train car, that is 250 train cars, or 500 truckloads a day. If the trucks work 12 hours a day, and it is a two hour round trip, that is 6 loads per day per truck. Accounting for weekends, holidays and maintenance reductions in capacity, that is 100 trucks going constantly all day, 6 days a week.

    The big railroads today haul about 25% coal, more than 25% intermodal, and the rest of their income is other stuff, chemicals, miscellaneous freight, ethanol, grain etc.

    As for wood, using the scraps from paper and lumber making and tree cutting in industrial processes for heat and such is good recycling, as they would just rot and give off CO2 anyways, in a closed cycle, as then hopefully more trees grow and suck it up again. But, if you cut down trees, and don't replant, that is taking down a tree that would have otherwise sucked up CO2, and it is bad for the local ecosystem as well.
  12. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    I have a question on the sea levels rising. If I have an ice cube and it melts is there not less volume as water. A ice cube just like the polar ice caps has a lot of air trapped in it. And if I remember correctly a ice cap is like 2/3 below water line and 1/3 above water line. so if they melt how much more water are we addind to the sea levels . Just a thought
    thanks Roger
  13. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Thats a very good thought... and you're right about sea-based ice, BUT there is a lot of ice on top of Greenland and the South Pole, which, if it melts, the sea level goes up. Al Gore claims 20 feet if either one went, not too sure about that number, but it would go up.
  14. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Oh, another thing. What it so bad about global warming is not the 1C, which by the way is HUGE for a global climate shift, even though it is very small for weather, and relatively small for a local climate shift, but the rate of change. Natural changes happen over 1000 years or more, this change of 1C has happened over about 30-50 years. With 1000 years, evolution takes care of things, and no organism notices the change, it happens so slowly. With 30-50 years, organisms notice, and evolution is not fast enough to deal with
    many of the changes, as they can have chain reactions within ecosystem.

    And all of this is not counting positive and negative feedback loops, future CO2 output of humans, and the way deforestation contributes to global warming. All this stuff matters, but it far more complicated.
  15. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    We will all be dead before the dolfins die so I aint worried.

    These ice ages and warm ups come and go.
  16. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    al gore??? and you beleave a thing that that guy says,

    i bet you beleave he invented the internet too huh?.........lol
  17. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    he didnt omg
  18. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Al Gore now there is a trusted source.

    We produce a ton of coal cars in the Johnstown area by a company called Johnstown America. Their Freight Car Davison manufactures a lot of the coal carrying railcars you see today. Another politician by the name of John Murtha is responsible for their success in the area. They have built and introduced more types of coal carrying railcars than all other manufactures in North America combined.

    They pioneered the modern aluminum-bodied coal carrying railcar design in 1986. Their aluminum Beth Gon railcar has been the leading aluminum-bodied coal carrying railcar sold in North America.

    So pardon me if when the facts are twisted by a politician for certain gains I say it is a lot of hot air.

    Contrary to popular belief rail cars and coal is still a great combination on the rail lines and depending on whom you talk to or what facts you choose to believe the world is ending.

    [FONT=&quot]By the way here is a Johnstown produced Bon Gon Railcar, which is better to read about than some has been saying we are going to die tomorrow.[/FONT]

    Attached Files:

  19. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Current warming is FAR faster than pervious warmings. For the past 500,000 years, the earth has gone warm---cold---warm---cold----warm, and then about 1950 it started to go warm-warm-warm, in a nearly straight up manner, causing temperature change that should happen over 1000 years over less than 50 years.

    Gore did not invent the net. Anyways, An Inconvenient Truth is an easy to understand, factual presentation about global warming. The only thing that is not completely factually based, is his wild speculation of a 20ft sea level rise. The IPCC says less than a meter, which is really bad instead of really, really, really bad.

    If you don't like Gore, you can dig into the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, which comes out every few years, and details the harmful effects of global warming, and what catastrauphic effects could occur if carbon emissions are not cut drastically (the number floating around varies between a 75% cut by 2050 and an 80% cut by 2050 over year 2000 levels, either of which would be pretty good). It is a boring, governmental type report, but it is very factual and conservative in predictions and statements, not saying anything until there is absolute proof, and using non absolute language where the science is not absolute.

    Another resource is the Stern Report, which came out a month or two ago, about future economic effects of global warming, and how reducing carbon emissions will effect the market (like create jobs, and a $50B market for renewables alone by 2050. That is not counting energy efficiency improvement and coal gasification/ CCS markets, which could be more than $50B). It is also a great, factual report that is a bit dry. I skimmed a bit of it.

    I choose to beleive the real facts. The real facts the global warming is a real and serious threat. Anyone who says it is not a serious threat that needs to be dealt with is either uneducated about the topic, or choosing to believe the fake facts that are paid for by Exxon-Mobil (and other big polluters), AND is uneducated about the topic.

    That being said, how to implement low carbon technologies, and what mix of coal gasification/ CCS, nuclear, and renewable energy for power and what mix of electric, hybrid, and ethanol vehicles (or how to reduce vehicle use) is right for various countries is still up for debate (and hopefully new and innovative solutions will be developed and implemented while growth increases for current low carbon technologies).
  20. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Does anyone know how long a coal consist should be to look pro-typical? In addition should all the cars be the same road name?

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