Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov. Brian Schweitzer heard about operations and improvements at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail yards in Havre Thursday, as he toured the yards on an update about BNSF’s recovery of hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel spilled in the yards over decades of use in the 1900s. Schweitzer joked at the beginning of the tour that as he came into Havre, he saw evidence of the railroad’s increased efficiency the price of diesel has finally dropped below the price of gasoline, he said. “The big dog’s not using as much diesel as it used to,” he said. “You’re the big dog,” he added. BNSF officials talked about their operations as they guided Schweitzer through the yards. Allen Stegman of BNSF’s Fort Worth, Texas, offices told the governor that the Havre yard is seeing about 33 to 35 trains coming through a day. Havre is one of the main refueling stops on the northern line, with engines taking on diesel in Havre, Whitefish and Minot. That is significantly less than before the economic downturn last year, when the yard was seeing 38 to 40 locomotives a day, but better than the low point at about 28-29, Stegman said. A recent shifting of trains to the northern route is part of the higher numbers, he said. Beau Price, shop superintendent at BNSF’s Havre diesel shop, told Schweitzer one of the reasons the Havre location is so strategic for the company: It is perfectly located to set trains for the run into or out of the Rocky Mountain range, with engines added for trains going west and taken off for engines headed east. The shop, the main portion of which was built in 1945 with the last addition put on in 1968, employs 175 people to take care of the electric diesel engines used by the railroad. Price said that a significant portion of the workers there are graduates of Havre’s Montana State University-Northern, which also supplies a steady stream of workers to General Electric, which manufactures the locomotives BNSF uses. Price also showed Schweitzer a feather in BNSF’s cap a newly designed locomotive, that uses alternating current motors and is 15 percent more efficient with 15 percent-less emissions than previous locomotives. “It’s as good as you can get for emissions,” Price said. BNSF spokesman Pat Hiatte said his company was the first railroad to begin using AC traction motors on locomotives instead of direct current systems. That, along with improved design of the new C44 locomotive, is what provides the greater efficiency, he said. Price said the new system also is more reliable, making it perfect for use on the Hi-Line of Montana. Schweitzer said he is expecting the railroad to rev up for the busy season about to hit, transporting Montana grain to market. “Tell your crew to get their grease guns out because we’re going to need every engine running the next eight months to haul that wheat harvest,” he said.