Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Down the Gauntlet

Southbound Union Pacific freight train in the grade crossing gauntlet of Portland's near east side.

There are 11 grade crossings in the span of 1/2-mile on the two main tracks of Union Pacific's Brooklyn Subdivision in the near east side of Portland, Oregon. The neighborhood is a mix of industry--both active and abandoned--and redevelopment, and most of the new restaurants and cafes give a nod to the industrial heritage in their decor and style.

Grade crossings intrigue me as the only real interface between the railroad and the vast majority of the population in contemporary society. For most, the train is an inconvenience when they get stuck behind one at a crossing, and it seems those few minutes are so important that they're worth risking life, limb, and property for so many drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians who try to beat the train. Never mind that those inconvenient trains help keep consumer prices low on everything from electronics to food to clothing to energy. The Association of American Railroads reports that 43 percent of the nation's freight moves by rail, which is more fuel efficient than trucking or air freight.

The train in this photo is Union Pacific's Brooklyn Transfer, normally a nocturnal job that shuffles cars from Brooklyn Yard in southeast Portland to Albina Yard in north Portland, and back. It mainly handles intermodal cars moving between the two yards, and occasionally its work takes long enough that it returns to Brooklyn in daylight, as was the case this morning.

1 comment:

LouT1501 said...

This stretch of track is really interesting as I've been on both sides of the fence, so to speak. I worked at a warehouse on the north end of the area in the mid-70s. Used to see SP, UP and BN switchers work this line and the track on the streets east of the 'tunnel.' The Portland Traction was also a presence since a spur of their line crossed the SP tracks to interchange with the BN at East Portland.

Now, as an occasional engineer on the 663/4, it's fascinating to roll through here. The people you see here late at night - and the homeless camps - are different.

Good one, Scott!