Detectors Help BNSF Respond to Rock and Mud Slides, Avalanches and Floods
As a western railroad, BNSF operates trains in rough and remote terrain, including mountains, canyons and deserts. Rocks—some as big as a small car—can occasionally roll onto the tracks. And while BNSF monitors weather conditions and regularly conducts inspections to ensure the integrity of its network, track-condition detectors provide another layer of safety.
Trackside detectors alert BNSF to obstructions that have shifted onto tracks and either set the signals to a restricting state or warn dispatchers, who alert train crews of the potential hazard. The most common type of detector, with more than 220 on BNSF’s network, is the rockslide detector, also known as a slide fence. A series of wires suspended from poles form the fence and when rock or debris breaks one of the wires, an electrical circuit is disrupted. Once the hazard has been confirmed, trains operating in the area are stopped until the track can be inspected and cleared.
BNSF’s 2020 Annual Review is now available online. This year’s report is fully digital and details how BNSF answered the call to operate safely, serve its customers, protect the environment and value people and communities. In a year of pandemic and crisis, people continued to rely on the delivery of essential goods, perhaps even more than before. 2020 also marked the 25th anniversary of the 1995 merger between Burlington Northern Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, creating BNSF Railway, one of the world’s largest freight rail networks and a vital link in the U.S. and global supply chain.
BNSF Predecessors Played a Key Role in Shaping America’s National Parks
U.S. National Parks are home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, but the history these protected lands share with U.S. railroads may be surprising. As railroads expanded passenger service westward in the 19th and 20th centuries, they enticed visitors to travel to these then unknown destinations. Expeditions had already revealed the unique geography of the land, and the government was taking steps to protect the natural beauty of what would become some of the world’s most famous landscapes. Families began to flock to today’s national parks.
BNSF predecessor railroads helped shape and protect the grandeur of these landscapes. After the Yellowstone Act of 1872, which established Yellowstone as America’s first national park, the land remained a sparsely visited site until the Northern Pacific reached the northern rim in 1883 with the completion of its branch line in Cinnabar, Montana. In 1907, Louis Hill took over the Great Northern Railway as president before his father’s retirement in 1912. Together, they shared a dream of making their network the “Playground of the Northwest,” including the area that would become Glacier National Park.
As summer weather inspires more exploration and adventure, it’s important to remember the dangers inherent in driving over or walking over rail tracks. A typical freight train can take more than a mile to stop, even when emergency brakes are applied—the distance of 18 football fields! While the number of highway-rail crossing collisions, deaths and injuries has dropped over the past five decades, it’s still a fact that a person or vehicle is struck by a train roughly once every three hours. Nearly all rail-related deaths involve drivers trying to beat a train, or people trespassing on railroad tracks.
The BNSF Railway Foundation invests in the communities across the 28 states through which BNSF operates, and where BNSF employees live, work and volunteer. Recent donations include:
Completing Safe, Scenic Riverside Trails in Bonners Ferry
Nearly three decades ago, Riverside Park in Bonners Ferry, ID along the Kootenai River was designed to be a one-of-a-kind waterfront recreation facility. The park was slated to include a two-mile, connected pedestrian and biking trail system, but due to funding constraints, the trail system was never built. BNSF Railway Foundation recently contributed toward the completion of the park including benches, kiosks, interpretive signage, park signage, fitness stations, a frisbee disc golf course and other needed park improvements.
Expanding Park and Water Access in Sandpoint
War Memorial Field in Sandpoint, ID is a 4.5-acre multi-use sports complex dedicated to the memory of Bonner County servicemen and women lost in wars from WWI on. To make the park more usable and reduce impacts to the surrounding neighborhood, the parking lot and boat launch were recently upgraded, and a new ADA-accessible pathway to the waterfront has been opened. To support the project, BNSF Railway Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant for log booms.
Supporting Opportunities to Learn Technology and Teamwork
Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties based in Pasco, WA is dedicated to empowering all young people, especially those most in need, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. BNSF Railway Foundation donated $5,000 toward Computer Science Pathway, a program that provides opportunities to learn code and algorithmic processes and design original technologies. The program also helps build social and emotional skills like teamwork, perseverance and the ability to identify and solve problems.
Sustaining the Salish Language
The Inchelium Language & Culture Association in Inchelium, WA is a community-based, grassroots Native non-profit. The organization fosters and sustains a dynamic community of Salish language speakers whose daily lives are expressed through a commitment to Lakes and Colville culture and a connection to their traditional territories. The organization works to create new Salish Language speakers and teachers. To support that endeavor, BNSF Railway Foundation contributed $15,000 toward the New Salish Speakers Project.
Providing Food Security in Portland, OR
Lift UP is committed to reducing hunger and improving the lives of low-income residents of northwest and downtown Portland, OR. Through its programs, Lift UP has distributed as much as 222,696 pounds of food in a single year. In order to help sustain food security programs until the current pandemic subsides, BNSF Railway Foundation donated $2,500. By donating funds instead of food, Lift UP is able to purchase the most needed items in bulk rates.
Preparing the Chiloquin, OR Community for Disaster Response
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) of Klamath County, OR provides life-saving aid to neighbors and alleviates strain placed on professional emergency services in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Members are prepared to respond to any number of disasters and to work with fire and law enforcement agencies to protect lives and property. BNSF Railway Foundation’s contribution of $5,000 will help the Chiloquin community CERT purchase equipment for disaster response.