Thursday, January 21, 2010

Longest UP Cargo Train Ever Causes Awe, Ire

The details are in on the recent mega cargo train that ran from Dallas, Texas to the Port of Long Beach and as mega trains go, it was a whopper.

"In the 30-plus years that I have been chasing steel I have never seen a train that long," said rail enthusiast Joe Perry who runs the railroad blog Chasing Steel at

The Union Pacific train, the longest ever put together by the railroad, had 295 loaded double stack cars and came in a 18,061 feet in length– just over 3.4 miles. Moving at a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour, with power provided by nine locomotives, the train took nearly five minutes to pass by spectators and rail enthusiasts that lined key lookout positions along the train's route.

According to the railroad, the train was a test of field equipment and that there are no plans to run such trains regularly.

While there are no state or federal limits on the length of trains or requirements to notify government officials, UP said it did notify federal authorities that monitored the train. At least one member of the California Congressional delegation, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-San Gabriel) was not happy to find out that the train moved through her district without prior notification. The state Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail safety in the state, also was not pleased and rushed a team of commission staffers to the Inland Empire to monitor the train's progress.

The train left Texas on January 8 and arrived at the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility near the Port of Long Beach on the evening of Jan. 10.

Rail enthusiast Perry caught up with the train as it moved across the eastern California desert communities on Jan. 10.

"I heard the train before I could see it," he recounted on his blog. "The train was massive. It stretched out far beyond what my naked eyes could see."

Perry, who has videoed and photographed thousands of trains over the years, believes he is the only person to capture a single picture of the entire train--a shot featured on his blog along with other pictures and video of the mega train.