Union Pacific employs “water train” to battle western wildfires

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Union Pacific employees fight wildfires with pumpers from the water train
Union Pacific

The western wildfires are wreaking havoc on the West Coast and several inland locations. People have lost their homes, been evacuated, and are dealing with a heavy smoke cloud that aggravates any respiratory ailments. And, all of this is happening before the traditional start date of the wildfire season.

Western railroads throughout history have built “water trains” to be on standby in this region in case a fire broke out due to sparks from a locomotive or other causes. Union Pacific is employing a modern water train that consists of two rail cars that hold 12,500 gallons of water each, along with a pumping device to disperse the water, much like a fire truck does, to fight wildfires approaching their lines.

The train travels back and forth over a seven-mile area, and has recently been focused on UP’s Canyon Subdivision not far from Quincy, Calif., where fire has interfered with traffic flow through the area.

Jerry Rhea, UP’s manager-Bridge Maintenance and Engineering said “We’ve had more than 16 fires so far this year in the Valley, Winnemucca and Canyon subdivisions, and the Reno, Nevada industrial leads.” He added that “The team does a fantastic job working as one with our fellow Engineering co-workers and Transportation crews. Safety and communication have been excellent to keep trains running while protecting our infrastructure. We’re seeing very valiant efforts on everyone’s part.”

“The team does a fantastic job working as one with our fellow Engineering co-workers and Transportation crews,” Rhea said. “Safety and communication have been excellent to keep trains running while protecting our infrastructure. We’re seeing very valiant efforts on everyone’s part.”

Rhea also pointed out that UP has crews working at night, adding that “We stockpile trains in Portola, Calif., and make arrangements with the Harriman Dispatching Center so we can escort trains through the track at night when everything cools down.”

Categories: Class 1, Freight, Railroad News, Safety/Training
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