Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tunnel 18: Making Double-Stack SPACE

Earlier, I wrote about double-stack container traffic having been opened up over Donner Pass this past November.

That was significant insofar as Union Pacific, if it wanted to move double-stack traffic east/west, had to do so through the Feather River Canyon route -- former Western Pacific territory (UP bought WP back in 1983). This canyon path is roughly 75 miles and three hours longer than the Donner Pass route. Because of height clearance problems, Union Pacific, in order to enable the taller double-stack cars, had to either cut up into tunnels or cut down into tunnel beds. Because some sidings were also increased on Donner, UP can run up to 9,000-foot trains here, as opposed to the 5,700-foot limitation through the Feather River Canyon due to siding length.

Recently I drove to Tunnel 18, which is located near Newcastle and directly adjacent Interstate 80. Below Auburn and at about the 945' level, Newcastle is where the double track splits just east of Tunnel 18 itself. West of Tunnel 18 is the Newcastle trestle which passes directly over I-80.

Having accessed this article in The Sacramento Bee last year regarding UP's tunnel work, I drove to the area for my own photographic purposes.

As you can see, work crews made radial cuts in the upper portions of the tunnel concrete.

In the top photograph, you can also see that the cuts on the upper right portion portion of the tunnel are deeper and wider, because the track is closer to the wall. In that photograph, taken looking east, the westbound #1 track is on the right, and the eastbound #2 track is on the left.

After the snows clear I'll attempt to acquire more photographs of altered tunnels in the higher elevations.



Well Seasoned Fool said...

A clever solution. Has the UP stopped using the Feather River route?

Milepost 154 said...

WSF: apparently not; however, the UP employees in Portola are very concerned. They're thinking they might be on a very short list of endangered species.

UP won't get rid of the Feather River route or abandon it; both routes have their weather and environmental problems. If one is down or closed, UP has the other for double-stack traffic.


Well Seasoned Fool said...

That makes sense. In the days before the UP bought the D&RG, the UP would run freight via the Moffat Tunnel to Salt Lake when their tracks in Wyoming were closed by blizzards.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Man, I wish I could have photographed Moffat Tunnel in its heyday!


Well Seasoned Fool said...

My late father was the Section Foreman for the Moffat Tunnel in the early 1950's. We lived at East Portal. The town had fewer than 40 residents and zero amenities other than great fishing. Bleak place in the winters.

Thanks to 9/11, you can't get near the tunnel but for years you could wander at will. Next to the Moffat tunnel is water tunnel that brings water from the Western Slope into the Denver water system.

In Western Colorado, goddamndenverwaterboard is one word.

Anonymous said...

hi they have it wrong on this former Western Pacific territory (UP bought WP back in 1983). i was working for wp in the early 70s around 1973 at the end of wp before up took over. it was 1973 not 1983.