Unit trains usually have the same type of car and all cars carry the same type of commodity. The commodity may be steel coils, ethanol, or various types of grain. The train is assembled at one terminal and remains as a unit until it reaches the final destination. Loaded grain trains begin with the letter G and empty trains with the letter X.
These are the most common unit trains you will see go by the Flagstaff cameras. Loads always go west and empties east, so there will be a lot more power on the westbound trains. Tonnage
on loaded trains is around 16,000 tons and power configurations vary from a simple 2 unit DPU (distributed power unit) in a 4+2 configuration to two sets of DPUs in 3+3+2 or 4+3+2 or other combinations. The cars are mostly BNSF brown 3 bay covered hoppers. Most of the grain is going to chicken farms or dairies in the San Joaquin Valley of California. These were some of the more common train symbols during June and July 2018. Notice that the section number is alwas a nine.
FRS Fresno GGMNFRS9, GSURFRS9, and GBWKFRS9
GUC Guernsey GBAYGUC9, GSURGUC9, and GPHPGUC9
KIN Kings Park GBDEKIN9 GBETKIN9, GFUNKIN9, GHASKIN9, GONLKIN9, and GREDKIN9
STO Stockton GMNSSTO9, GJSDSTO9, GNENSTO9, GSSDSTO9, GSTCSTO9, and GWMISTO9
SWA Swanson GAVISWA9, GBETSWA9, GHDNSWA9, GLINSWA9, GNENSWA9, GPHPSWA9, GREDSWA9, GTIASWA9, and GTMRSWA9
TCA Tioga GBNBTCA9, GJSDTCA9, GONLTCA9
The grain comes from a varity of elevators in the Kansas, Iowa, and upper Mississippi region. Here are a few of the origins:
AVI Arvilla, ND
BAY Bayard, IA
FUN Funk, NE
HAS Hastings, NE
HDN Hardin, MO
NEN Brunswick, NE
ONL O'Neil, NE
Occasionally there will also be shipments of DDG (distillers grain) in grey 4 bay covered hoppers. DDG is a by product from ethanol production and most is used as cattle feed. DDG is lighter than grain so a standard covered hopper would only hold about 72 tons of DDG. That is why DDG is carried in 4 bay 6,300 cubic feet jumbo covered hoppers. Notice that the section number is always a five.
FRS Fresno GABEFRS5
GEC Guernsey GABEGUC5, GGTOGUC5, and GMNSGUC5
KIN Kings Park GHKNKIN5 GMNSKIN5 and GMNXKIN5
MOD Modesto GMNSMOD5
STO Stockton GMNSMOD5 and GWLMSTO5
SWA Swanson GMNXSWA5
Loaded ethanol trains have traditionally begun with the letter G and empty trains with the letter X. However recently unit ethanol trains have been using the letter U at the beginning for both loaded and empty trains. The trains to Watson usually have 96 to 103 tank cars, the trains to Phoenix had just 80.
Power for these train is usually in a 3+2 configuration. All trains have an idler car between the tank cars and the locomotives. So on most trains you will most often see a 3 bay covered hopper seperating the tank cars from the engines. Sometimes the idler will be a airslide covered hopper. The idler cars are generally filled half full of sand to act as ballast. Notice that the section code is always a seven.
PHX Phoenix, AZ UHKNPHX7 and URAVPHX7
RIC Richmond, CA GCNBRIC7
WAT Watson, CA GABEWAT7, GADMWAT7, GAXTWAT7, GCNBWAT7, GHERWAT7, GJOEWAT7, GMITWAT7, UADMWAT7, UAXTWAT7, UCCEWAT7, UCLHWAT7, UGDNWAT7, UHERWAT7, UJOEWAT7, UPLXWAT7, URAVWAT7, and USIOWAT7
This strange looking train runs several times a month. It moves coils of steel from Madison, IL to Pittsburg, CA. United States Steel & Pohang Iron & Steel manufactures cold rolled, galvanized and tin mill products from 1,440,000 tons of hot rolled steel per year. The train usually has 50 coil cars at 6,700 tons and power is in an odd 1+2 configuration. The symbol during June and July 2018 was UMADPIT. Other symbols have been UBIRPIT from Birminham, AL and UESLPIT from East St. Louis.