BNSF Powder River Division employees celebrated the Orin Line's 30-year anniversary in honor of the first unit-coal train that traveled the 116-mile rail line across the Wyoming prairie on Nov. 6, 1979, according to the company newsletter.
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
"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.