Tuesday, November 17, 2015

BNSF Locomotive Usage for Z Trains

As background for this question, BNSF Z trains are their high priority intermodal trains. BNSF charges a premium rate for fast and reliable service. I read that for those trains whose route includes trackage rights on UP, they add an extra locomotive so that if one breaks down in foreign territory, they can keep on running at full speed. The BNSF built a special intermodal yard to service UPS trailer traffic. UPS is a major customer of Z trains.

My first sentence had read "their high priority stack trains." But then Mike Worcester posted the question: "Question for all you smart train people on here — what’s the distinction between a “stack” train and an “intermodal” train? Are those terms interchangeable? Or is there a difference that can easily be pointed out? Thanks!"
After reading Trevor's answer, I changed "stack" to "intermodal" in my first sentence.
Trevor Young: Technically, on BNSF, true “Stack” trains are designated by an S symbol. These are usually all international containers, mostly 40’ and 20’ double stacks headed for the ports. Intermodal does refer to all of it, but Z’s and Q’s are the higher priority intermodal trains, not designated the same as S trains, hauling domestic containers, trailers, and UPS trailers and containers on the Z’s. Hope this helps!
Mike Jackson: There is a difference in between S,Q&Z trains. S ( stack) trains are of course intermodal just like the Q and Z. S trains are just not as important. Q trains are guaranteed service trains. Z trains are UPS/LTL trains. The Z’s are supposed to be the highest priority on the rails but some subs don’t run them right. The Z also has a priority level 1-9 with 9 being the highest. The Z will also have pigs on it.
[Some comments point out that just because S is not as important as Q and Z trains doesn't mean they are not important. Most other trains will be put in a siding for an S train. I wonder where Amtrak trains are in the priority list.]
Question: how often do you see EMD power or stack and Z trains? I mostly see -9s and ES44DC/C4. I know they use mostly AC power for coal drags and I've seen mixed locos on manifests.

Tj Yumoto Ramon Rhodes probably has one of the best explanations i've heard on the reason for this. I'll let him do the explaining

Brandon Schwenk So I don't have all the exact answers as some guys do. Being a conductor former myself, that's true. On stacks we try to use the C4s the most Because of the wheel and traction motor system, they allow for more fuel efficiency and better movement of stack trains. Especially on a train with the weight and make up of a Z, the C4 and traction motor design as well as better increasing to higher speeds. I hate the ACES on anything personally, I think theirs a delay on the controls , don't run well in notch 8, bulkier, loud and smelly, in general besides what I personally don't like, they just arnt a good choice for any stacks. Iv seen yard master go through hell to not use ACES and EMD power on stacks, especially on a train like the Z. As much as people say they don't, I believe I do feel the difference in pulling dynamic and effectiveness on a ACE vs a C4 or AC. My simple two sense.

Ramon Rhodes Brandon Schwenk said it as well as I could have. AC traction motors are better at pulling heavy tonnage at moderate speed. As far as other EMD-types like SD40-2's or SD75M's etc. being used in high speed intermodal service, that's not going to happen with any regularity anymore since the non-AC EMD power is just plain old and worn out at this point. It's too unreliable to be used on priority trains that need to maintain tight schedules. Then there's the emissions requirements in California and Texas that the older EMD power doesn't comply with that have to be factored in as well. Here though is a shot of a westbound all EMD SD75M lash-up on a Q-Train in Hodgkins, IL. It was one of their last true times in the intermodal spotlight! Oct. 2010.

Ramon Rhodes posted

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