Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pushing Coal

Well, let's see. Let us just pick a day this happened on.
How's Monday work for ya?
Okay, Monday it is. And conveniently, it really was Monday.


I'm done with my day and it's early enough to where I will miss all rush hour traffic.
Yay, me!
And my last stop is conveniently only a block or two away from an on ramp to the interstate.
Yay, me!

So, I make a turn on my last surface street and up ahead I see the lights flashing for the railroad crossing. But no ding, ding, ding.

I think to myself, "Hmm, I wonder if it is stuck and I bet I can make it."

Curiously, when I was looking for a pic just like this.
I found that this happened at the time I was musing of me running the stop.

But since I did not want to end up like the pic above. I stopped.
I always stop about three car lengths away from the railroad gates. Because, we all know that if a train derails it is always taking out the first two or three cars.

Overly cautious? I think not.


Here comes the train. I put my vehicle in park and I start to muse.
How many engines? How many cars? I wonder what fuels the engine. I will have to google that. Remember that time that I sat and counted four engines and over two hundred cars. Huh. I wonder how long I sat there. Oh, and how about the time I had to borrow a phone from a fellow motorist to call work and tell them I would be late because the motorcycles for Toys for Tots were in the hundreds and the intersection was halted. Remember when I was traveling with the boy out in the middle of the western United States. I think it was New Mexico and there were train tracks in the middle of no where. And then the gates came down and we waited and waited and finally a train came by carrying radioactive materials and nasty bad chemicals. Wow, that was a long time ago.

Meanwhile, I am counting train cars. They are carrying coal.
Now, that's pretty interesting. I wonder where they are going. Do you think that the coal powers the train. no, i would  see a smokestack. i wonder who regulates that? the EPA? i wonder how many cars are behind me. i wonder how many people are getting pissed off. that guy to the left of me he's on the phone he doesn't care. i wonder who he's talking to. is that one baby seat in the back or two. i didn't know they made pink ones. i don't like it. hmm, what does it say on those coal cars?radiant heat only max aluminum temp 250. does aluminum melt at 250. i dont think so. my pots and pans would be melted. does coal combust at 250. i will have to google that. if the coal freezes does it make oil at the bottom of the car. ha! just kidding. if the train collides into another train going 250 mph could they make diamonds. hahahaha. i kill me....

Car count 25.
dont hammer on the side of car. why? what will happen? could we make a diamond like that? bahhahaha. im a nut! Caution no side ladder. well, how in the hell am i to check on my diamond making capabilities?Rotary coupler end. that sounds kinda sexy. hmmm, nice pair of chisel buttocks, tanned of course. ya know sometimes i miss the beach. Doors are locked when indicator is within stripe. that sounds about right. i wonder if the train engineer gets bored. bet he has a Playboy up in there with him. pervert.where do they go to the bathroom. i wonder how many female engineers they are. i wouldnt wear that silly hat. i like hats. big floppy straw hats. snoopy has floppy ears, so does puggies. i like to bite them. not hard. my boys ears used to fold up. i could fold them three times. i will have to ask him if he can still do that. Stand clear of doors. well, thats just good advice anytime. 

At car number 108. Dead stop.

huh. wonder why the train stopped. i really should have just blown through the warning lights. do i hear another train. okay that makes sense. wonder how long this train will be. union pacific, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten...i hope its not a long one. eleven, twelve. yayyy union pacifics engine was really clean. did they wash it? maybe its new.

So, now it has been FOREVER and people start getting out of their cars. I see two old guys get out of a van and I yell out. "Hey, did either of you bring backgammon or cards?"

Well, now I know this guy's life story from 1992 until present time. Would you like for me to share? Nah, I won't. It just isn't as riveting as this post. HA!
So, after listening to this guy's decades of stories, the train starts to move. Yay! That's what he said. I called him an optimist and settled back in for the wait.

One hundred and eight, one hundred and nine.....wait a minute....they are slowing down.

Dead stop again at 120.

Huh. Now, I have a grandpa walking a little kid up to see the train. He stops and pick up something from the ground. I wonder what it was.

I bet a dime. i wonder how many people walk on this sidewalk in a day. not many, i bet. would he pick up a bug for the little kid? think the kid would eat a bug? green or black? i dont know if i would eat a green juicy bug, but the black ones would be crunchy and i bet a leg would get stuck in a tooth or to the roof of my mouth. but i would eat a bug.

Ooops! The train is moving again. I crane my neck and I can see the final two engines!

I start clapping, and make motions with my arms and hands as though I am moving the train along. My sheer will and determination kept that train moving.

So, forty minutes, for engines, one hundred and twenty eight coal cars later, I get to drive home to google this information.

Most freight trains use diesel fuel. The fuel tank is at the center of the locomotive, under the belly, centrally located between the front and rear wheels. Trains can move a ton of freight nearly 450 miles on a single gallon of fuel. The estimated length of my train. 7064 ft. a mile is 5280 train was 1.33 miles long. estimated weight of coal 6,400,000 lbs estimated weight of engines and empty coal cars....5,552,000 lbs combined total of 11,952,000 lbs or 5976 TONS! So, 13.28 gallons of diesel to move the train a mile. National average for diesel fuel $3.51. $46.61 to move that train a mile. 2776 driving miles between LA and NY.  $129,389. Average selling price for one ton of coal $68....and I'm stopping right here!

Okay, enough. Seriously. Train people are very passionate about trains, thanks Google. And coal is, in my opinion, fascinating! The only thing I know for sure about today is...I spent 40 minutes away from home thinking about trains, and another two hours studying about coal.

Departure point of my train.



  1. While my minds wanders as aimlessly as yours, I would never remember what things ran across it while sitting and waiting for something long enough to write them down later. I'm lucky if I remember where I am most days!

  2. Who? What? Where? Yeah, that's me also! I never know the date. Ever.