Many of the gift and holiday items lining the shelves of stores today arrived at U.S. shipping ports weeks ago, and have been hauled the rest of the way here by rail. Steve Forsberg, spokesman for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, says many people don’t realize how many integral parts of daily life depends on the rails.
Forsberg says many of the ingredients used to make our food products, the coal to run power plants in the Midwest, building materials used to make our homes — and the rail industry even moves more than 70-percent of the new cars and trucks we drive.
Forsberg says railroads overall are as much a part of daily life as they ever were in history. We’re not traveling by train as much as previous generations did, but they still play a role in providing the goods we consume. Passenger travel’s turning around, too, with Amtrak reporting record ridership this year. Forsberg says the Burlington Northern moves a great deal of the consumer items we buy and use daily throughout much of the western two-thirds of the United States.
To do that, the BNSF has an infrastructure of land, rails, shops, offices and people that rivals any big corporation. There are 32-thousand “route miles” of track in 28 states and two Canadian provinces, and a little over 48-thousand employees. Energy prices and other factors combine to ensure the railroads are still a vital part of our transportation infrastructure.
Forsberg says trains are still the most fuel-efficient way we’ve ever created to move fright long distances — Forsberg says a train will move a ton of freight more than 400 miles on a gallon diesel fuel, he says, more than three times as efficient as its shipment by truck.
A few years ago he asked the railroad’s mechanical department to figure out how that would translate to an S-U-V and they calculated it’s the equivalent of a vehicle making 250 miles to the gallon. It’s a job source too, especially with baby-boomers retiring. Forsberg says the railroad’s in the middle of the greatest hiring surge in the industry’s history.