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Leaving North Platte Nebraska on US 30, (old Lincoln highway) heading east, I ran down two different loaded coal trains. Head ends had 3 engines. Middle had 3 engines. About 200 bathtub gondolas in tow. Would these be split prior to delivery, presumably to two different customers each train keeping its engines?    
Great road trip with few trees and very close road to ROW.  Sunday morning yet many trains both directions. East of the Marysville Kansas cutoff, not many trains.
A lot of rural road crossings have no gates or flashers even with multiple tracks/sidings. How is this decided? Traffic count?

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Northeastern temperature(s) has/have been relatively mild. Our world would see coal as an on demand need. A/C so far this summer, late afternoon, Pittsburgh area.  My guess coal trains waiting for that 100 degree day.  Us, older, Pennsylvania talk about days before A/C.  Economic pressures via post pandemic, some open the windows. IMO. 

A siding that could handle 140 coal cars would be rare.  ??? IMO.  May account for splitting the train between two sidings. ???

A great highway to view coal trains on is Nebraska Route 2 going northwest from Grand Island, Nebraska.  You typically see a couple of coal trains coming from the coal fields in Wyoming, headed east. 

I recall driving along that route in 2013 or 2014 and seeing coal trains backed up due to some stoppage east of Grand Island.  The trains were stopped one after another, with only a few car lengths separating the trains.  There must have been 6 or 7 trains stopped and as I got to the last stopped train, there was another coming to a stop at the end of the line.

Whether it splits before delivery is dependent upon the length of the unloading track at the generating station.

Railroads chose 105 as the number of cars that qualified a train for the unit train rate.  Therefore, all unloading tracks will hold at least  105 cars and 4 diesel locomotives.  Others have more capacity.  Some are balloon tracks, while others are straight-through with access to the Main Track at both ends.

As information, prior to retiring from EMD at the end of 1998, I was responsible for service coverage and Engineer training on the SD70MAC units, in the Powder River coal areas. By 1998, the loaded train size had increased from about 114 cars to about 135 cars, with NO "mid-train" DPU "helpers", as the coal mine loading facilities could NOT tolerate the problems of coal dropping into the mid-train units. Thus, only front units and rear units (DPUs) were allowed. Due to some of the steeper ascending grades in the areas, there were maned rear-end helpers (also SD70MAC units) added in order to assist all loaded coal trains.

I was never aware that any of the power plants that all the various loaded coal trains delivered to, would/could except any single loaded coal train over about 140 cars, including units.

It’s technically not a “double train”. The engines in the middle are helpers, called “distributed power”. The whole train is likely headed to a power plant. I would assume (don’t know for sure though) that the helpers would be switched out of the train before it is run through the rotary dumpers…

Well, if the tonnage for the entire train is more than a set of units on the head end can handle, then, it is a "Double" train!

Actually, after loading at the mine(s) two loaded coal trains scheduled to depart in the same direction (but not necessarily to the same generating station) are sometimes coupled together and travel all or part of the way as a true double coal train, saving crew cost.  

Usually trains have 2 units on the head end and a 2-unit Distributed power consist on the rear.  When two are combined, they run with a 2-unit head end consist, a 4-unit mid-train Distributed Power consist and a 2-unit rear end Distributed Power consist.

The train is split back into the original pair of trains somewhere farther down the line.

Last edited by Number 90

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