November 2020 • The latest from the Pacific Northwest
BNSF Benefits from the Wisdom and Experience of Veterans
While resilience, fortitude, and the ability to adapt to challenging situations are always valued qualities, a year like 2020 has made these qualities essential. BNSF recently held conversations with three employees in the Pacific Northwest who are veterans and whose experiences and “can do” attitudes make them uniquely qualified to thrive in the face of adversity.
Billy Nicewonger joined the military immediately out of high school and served as a tank platoon sergeant/commander in the Marine Corps. He left the military in 2019 and works as an Intermodal Equipment Operator for BNSF in Seattle. Billy explained that many of the challenges of 2020 are about uncertainty. He noted that his military experience and familiarity with working under a high level of stress taught him to adapt and overcome.
Travis Traphagan joined the Army in 2001 and served for 12 years and 8 months. He served in several positions, including deployments to Korea and Iraq, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He has been working for BNSF since 2013 and says that his military training has been an invaluable asset. As a locomotive engineer, safety, preparedness, teamwork and discipline are just as important in his current work as in the Army.
Staff Sergeant Traphagan and his wife celebrate at a 2013 event.
Ricky Woods joined the Air Force in 1982. Over his 30-year career, he served as an aircraft mechanic, a flight engineer, a senior flight evaluator and a squadron superintendent, eventually retiring as a Chief Master Sergeant. He was hired by BNSF in 2012 as a Train Master and sees similarities between working for the railway and serving in the military, such as safely moving cargo and crews from point to point. As Ricky puts it, “We all have a mission to accomplish which is to make sure everyone gets home safe.”
We gratefully thank and honor all the men and women of our armed forces for their service to our country.
BNSF is consistently identified as a top employer for U.S. military veterans. Learn more here.
BNSF Provides Support to Tribal Nations Weathering 2020
Tribal nations throughout the Pacific Northwest have suffered greatly this year, not only because of COVID-19, they have also been impacted by wildfires that ravaged hundreds of thousands of acres of tribal lands. The BNSF Railway Foundation and BNSF Tribal Relations Director Quanah Spencer have actively sought opportunities to help, such as making a donation to the Peacekeeper Society for the distribution of food, water, personal protective equipment and household items.
Since its inception, the Peacekeeper Society has provided mentoring and economic opportunities for Native youth as well as grief recovery and wellness programs for community members. Before 2020, emergency response was smaller-scale, but now it’s a regional response program. So far, the Peacekeepers have held drive-through distributions for the Yakama, Warm Springs, Nez Perce and Umatilla reservations.
Learn more about BNSF’s commitment to the health and safety of tribal communities here.
Sandpoint Junction Connector Project Update
In October, BNSF crews began work on a second rail bridge over Bridge Street in Sandpoint. The new bridge will be adjacent to the existing rail overpass. Construction is anticipated to continue through April 2021. The work will require removal and replacement of sidewalks under the new bridge. Pedestrian access will be maintained through the project on at least one side of Bridge Street throughout the project. Activities will primarily occur Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pile driving is limited to the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. within Sandpoint city limits. Work also continues on the second bridge over Lake Pend Oreille.
Learn more about the Sandpoint Junction Connector Project here.
Creating a More Efficient Fleet
Locomotive technology has been essential to improving our network fuel efficiency—94% of BNSF’s emissions come from our locomotives. As such, we have made a significant investment in three key areas of locomotive technology: new locomotives, Automatic Engine Start/Stop (AESS) systems and Energy Management Systems (EMS).
BNSF is proud to have the largest number of the newest and cleanest-burning locomotives in North America. Since 2005, BNSF has purchased more than 3,600 new locomotives, including more than 500 locomotives since Tier 4 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards took effect in 2015. BNSF has also equipped more than 3,500 locomotives with EMS, which allows throttles and dynamic brakes to be controlled automatically, similar to cruise control in an automobile.
EMS factors in the train makeup (length, weight and horsepower, track geometry, grade, curvature) and speed restrictions to determine the most fuel-efficient way to operate the train across the territory while maintaining appropriate train handling. Additionally, we are integrating EMS with Positive Train Control (PTC) to maximize the utilization of EMS and minimize fuel consumption.
Supporting Our Communities
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:
Giving Hope and Help to Homeless Women
Elizabeth Gregory Home in Seattle received a $5,000 grant from BNSF Railway Foundation to help women navigate out of homelessness. The organization provides wrap-around programs and services at its drop-in day center that address essential needs such as nutrition, clothing, hygiene, employment and housing assistance, and health and mental health support, referrals, and education.
The funding received from BNSF Railway Foundation formed part of the anchor that allowed Elizabeth Gregory Home to survive and thrive despite the challenges of the pandemic and civil unrest.
Supporting Virtual Animal Encounters and Education
BNSF Railway Foundation contributed to the Up CLOSE program, Woodland Park Zoo’s ambassador animal outreach program. In response to the pandemic and the stay-at-home order, the zoo adjusted programming to offer educational activities, curriculum and comfort to the community through virtual programs such as Super Snack Time and ZooToYou.
Providing Emergency Housing for Young People
Northwest Youth Services is a non-profit organization serving young people ages 13-24 experiencing homelessness in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. The organization supports youth in identifying goals and building the skills necessary to reach their own sense of stability. BNSF Railway Foundation’s $2,500 grant helped support the Positive Adolescent Development Emergency Housing program’s direct costs, such as personnel and supplies.
Emergencies – Call 800-832-5452
To report a vehicle stalled on a crossing, suspicious circumstances, malfunctioning crossing gates and lights, or any other emergency, call 800-832-5452 immediately.
Have a Question for Us?
Do you have a question about BNSF or rail in the Pacific Northwest that you would like addressed in future issues of Inside Track? Send them to [email protected].