A BNSF predecessor, Burlington Northern Railroad, built the rail line in the Powder River Basin, from Gillette to Orin, Wyo., to help meet the country's growing need for low-cost, cleaner-burning coal. New rail service connected two east-west main lines serving about 15 operational coal mines and -- at the time -- was considered the longest stretch of new railroad built across the United States since 1931.
"For the last 30 years, we've seen incredible growth on the Orin Line," said Tom Albanese, general manager, Powder River Division. "Moving 40 trains per day in 1979 was considered a 'busy day.' Today, it's normal to handle more than 100 trains during a 24-hour period. Employees who were there on Day One were at the celebration, sharing stories about the many changes they have seen over the years and the impact the line will have for years to come."
The original train that operated on the line was a 110-car unit train hauling 11,000 tons of coal from the local Jacob's Ranch Mine for delivery to the Public Service Company of Oklahoma in Oologah, Okla.
Building the line was no small feat for the Engineering team in 1979. The line took seven years to plan and construct and included 26 bridges, 231 miles of fencing and hundreds of underpasses to protect the high plains' range animals. The final price tag: $110 million.