A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Rambling while watching a freight roll by

Written March 26th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

A southbound Union Pacific freight nears the Davidson Street crossing on March 22.

This is probably getting old for some of you. But not for me. When I’m on the bike and meet a train at one of Albany’s many grade crossings, I just have to take its picture.

Or a short video, as you can see below:

As you know, three railroad companies operate in Albany. The Union Pacific is, of course, the biggest. In fact it’s the largest railroad in North America, operating in 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States.

The others are the Portland & Western, headquartered in Salem, and the Albany & Eastern, based in Lebanon. The Albany & Eastern runs, besides its freight business, weekend excursion trains between Lebanon and Sweet Home. Check its website for the schedule.

As for the UP freights we see hurrying through Albany on their way north or south, what are they carrying when they aren’t pulling empty cars as in the video above?

Most of the time the observer at the crossing cant tell what’s in the box cars. On its website, though, UP summarizes the stuff it shipped to and from Oregon in 2020.

The top five commodities shipped out of Oregon were cement, roofing and miscellaneous materials; frozen and refrigerated goods; intermodal freight (meaning the rail cars carried trailers full of whatever); lumber and building materials; and paperboard and printing paper.

As for the freight carried into Oregon on UP trains, the top categories were autos, fertilizer, intermodal again, recyclables and municipal waste, and soda ash.

Wait. “Municipal waste?” You mean the UP brings trash to Oregon for disposal?

That’s a topic for another day, but it gives me an idea. Instead of expanding the Coffin Butte landfill, a controversial subject in Benton County, how about shipping our trash somewhere else by rail? (hh)

9 responses to “Rambling while watching a freight roll by”

  1. H. R. Richner says:

    Train videos never get old. Thank you, Hasso.

  2. Adam says:

    Hasso, I so totally get it. Nothing like hearing and feeling raw grinding power pulling 1000s of tons of freight. My favorite was to go up to the Cascade Summit line near Oakridge when the Southern Pacific ran it. Back then, the locomotives were much smaller General Motors EMD SD9s. It took 10 or 11 of them to get to the Summit even though there was a total of over 18,000 horsepower pulling. Totally amazing, at least to me.

    I concur on your thoughts regarding Coffin Butte and railroads. I look forward to exploring the subject.

  3. Dick Olsen says:

    Thanks Hasso, Glad I live on 8th St. so I can hear them at night.

  4. James Engel says:

    Yesterday when crossing @ Queen I noticed a new set of tracks mounted to ties along side the west side of the main line. So maybe the crossing repair will be sooner than later?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Sooner, according to my latest story on this.

    • centrist says:

      What kind of tie? Not an expert, but reinforced concrete might be more stable.
      Lived in an area where 60 inches a year was considered drought. Naturally the rail-bed was on level ground near the rivers. Rainwater that landed on the hillsides drained underground to those rivers. The springs made for a flexible bed.
      Then there was the winter with a stretch at a high of +5F. Frost-heave lifted the crossing and bed 6+”.
      How does one drain a swamp when any direction is more goo?

  5. Dala Rouse says:

    I sometimes wonder how many cans of paint do they use to paint the pictures and where do they sit long enough to do the murals if that is what you want to call the signs etc/

  6. Marty says:

    Doesn’t the BNSF run through Albany? It served the old Albany Paper mill and Duraflake as well as other places of business. Will it also serve the new intermodal center, along with Union Pacific? Most ALL of the railroad grade crossings in Albany are very good! One exception, Queen Avenue! Why? It should be maintained as well as the rest of the crossings in town! THANKS for the wonderful video, Hasso!


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