Trains have been a bit of a topic the last few years in Washington State due to the arrival of very long unit trains with one cargo passing through the state. Coal trains and oil trains over a mile long have become a common site. The unit trains are easy logistics in that the cargo is picked up at on place and off loaded at another. But there is a lot more to rail transport than unit trains. Assembling trains to carry a wide variety of cargo is a logistic challenge.
A glimpse of the train logistics can be had while crossing the south end of the hump yard in Pasco via the combined Highways 12, I182, and 395. Miles of siding for moving cars and putting together trains.
The multiple rail lines extend for over two miles to the north of the crossing
Pasco is well located for putting trains together with lines extending from Pasco down both sides of the Columbia River to Portland and spots in-between, a line heading up the Snake River to Lewiston, lines to Spokane, and a line that heads up the Yakima and through the tunnel in the Cascade Range at Stampede Pass and onto Tacoma and Seattle. Pasco is the railroad heart of much of the train traffic in Washington State.
Besides the intersection of routes, the Pasco site provides a broad level area and is underlain by gravel and sand soils making the early rail yard development easier than other spots. BNSF has made some recent upgrades including the installation of a coal spray station to reduce coal dust coming off the coal cars. Besides the environmental issues the estimated 500 pounds of dust from each load is hard on the tracks. BNSF Invests $26 million in Pasco