Coal Train Counts

No more speculation about the black hole which is reliable railroad data! Well, actually – a little more, but it is based on actual video recordings of train traffic 24 hours a day for the 7 week period April 24th to June 10th. There is much additional information to be derived from this data because it involves all train movements and gate down times at the Central Avenue crossing, but the first questions we wanted to answer were about the coal train traffic.

The average number of coal trains per day over the entire period was 3.5, varying from only 1 to as many as 6 in a single day. It is evenly divided between full trains going north and empties going south. The length has occassional minor variations from the standard 125 cars (7,000 feet) with typical Central Avenue gate down times of 5 minutes.

The averages were higher (3.7 per day) in the earlier weeks and lower (3.0) in the later weeks. The reduction in the averages was accompanied be a decrease in observation of CN power on the unit trains. That leads us to speculate that some of the traffic which was routed through Bellingham destined for Ridley Terminals at Prince Rupert (served by CN) has now been returned to the shorter Northern route which does not come through Washington.

We will use the expression 3-4 trains per day as a summary of coal train data until we find any evidence of any change in traffic from our next set of observations at a new location.

Note: An update to these figures will be coming soon. In addition, a new permanent observation site is expected to be operational by May.