NWI chapter members pose in front of BNSF's "Clyde" servicing tracks at Cicero Yard.
BNSF Hosts NWI Chicagoland Bus Trip - Lance Wales
The beautiful weather we had was just icing on the cake as the North Western Illinois Chapter provided another bus trip for its members and guests to partake in on Saturday, September 18, 2004. The turnout this year was less than we had last year though--only about 30 people came along as we had open access at a pair of yards. The event this year went to a pair of Burlington Northern Santa Fe facilities--the relatively new Logistic Park Chicago intermodal yard on a portion of the former Joliet Arsenal site and the old CB&Q yard at Cicero, IL. A big thank you goes out to Jerry Stauffer and Dennis Kern for contacting and arranging the tour through Jim Keukck of the BNSF. Jim was the main tour guide for us last year at BNSF’s Corwith Yard, and he came out to meet us at LPC and then met us down at Cicero to go through that facility.
We were out of Rockford in good time, making the Chicagoland pickup at Woodfield Mall and then getting down to Logistic Park around 10 a.m. Upon our arrival at the facility, we met up with Mr. Keuck and were taken into a conference room at the yard office where they had several dozen Dunkin Donuts waiting for us. We were soon introduced to Mark, the manager of LPC. He had worked his way up through the BNSF intermodal department--hiring on through one of the trucking companies at Cicero Yard as on one of the contract employees and then going over to the BN. He took time to explain the operations at Logistic Park, telling us that this facility mainly handles the ocean customers like Maresk SeaLand.
The 405 acre facility is divided into two sections with a loop track encompassing the site. The western portion is the automobile facility and the east area is the container lift and storage yard. Although at 500 acres the facility is quite large, it is only half built--the entire area within the loop track is just under 1000 total acres. Future expansion is expected to take up that area. There is more to the Logistic Park site than just the BNSF intermodal and automobile facilities though--there are three warehouses currently operating with another three in development to the east side of the yard that will additional carloads to the site. These warehouses have spur tracks up to them for unloading boxcar and other non-intermodal traffic. Potlatch is one other businesses currently using a warehouse there. During our visit there were contractors building additional trackage to the east along the new warehouse sites. There will also be a coal-fired electricity generating plant located at LPC. The coal trains will unload on the west side of the loop track and a conveyor system will deliver the coal to the generating station.
The intermodal portion of Logistic Park is occupied by BNSF’s international steamship companies like Maersk Sealand and Hanjin. The only BNSF Chicago-area international company not using LPC is Cosco. They are still using the Western Ave facility near downtown Chicago, but they are expected to move to LPC in the future as BNSF phases out that older yard.
One of the interesting things was that only five BNSF employees work out at LPC--everything else has been subcontracted out. Adding up the intermodal and automotive facilities reveals that more than 200 people work within LPC.
At present the LPC facility only does 24,000 lifts per month (more than 280,000 per year). When fully built out, the site is expected to perform around 1.4 million lifts--so the BNSF expects the international steamship traffic to grow--and LPC right along with it.
We’d eaten most of the donuts by now, so it was time to go back onto the bus to take a spin around the yard. Mark was providing a running commentary as we toured the facility. The concrete is 22 inches thick within the intermodal yard. This allows the overhead cranes to be driven anywhere within. More than a dozen of the large overhead cranes work both unloading the double stack cars and in the container stacking yard. The ones in the stacking yard are very impressive--standing more than 150 feet high and spanning 85 feet, they can stack containers 5 high by six deep, but at LPC they only go 4 high with them. Most of the cranes are partially rail mounted--the BNSF has additional sections of concrete-tied panel track that guides one set of the overhead crane wheels with a double-flanged wheel. Rail mounted cranes are only used at a handful of intermodal yards throughout the country. Joining the overhead cranes are side loaders and other equipment to provide for flexibility when loading and unloading container trains.
There are currently a pair of tracks that have the cranes straddling them. Construction was underway to install another pair of tracks in the yard. When fully built in the next 10 years, there will be six tracks--each of them 8000 feet in length for loading and unloading stacks. There are also additional switching tracks in the facility--currently a ten track yard sees autoracks and double stacks made up for outbound trains--like the evening V-LPCNTW that operates out of Logistic Park up to Joliet, onto the EJ&E for the run to Eola and then west on the BNSF C&I line through Rochelle and Savanna, IL.
Although the bus is nice to ride in, the windows don’t provide for the best photography through them, and we made our way down to the parking area that is used for storing salt during the winter. There we were behind a guard rail and able to watch the overhead cranes and the side loaders pick containers from the well cars and place them onto truck chassis to be taken to the container storage yard. It was neat to watch those operators pick those containers up with no wasted movements and deposit them right where they wanted.
One unique thing about Logistic Park is that all the cranes, side loaders and lifts are equipped with GPS. When they lift or set down a container, they enter its location on the global positioning satellite system, so its location is known within a few feet. After seeing all those look-alike containers, it is a small wonder that they know where they are--especially when they are in the container storage yard that is stacked 4 high by 5 deep!
A run over to the automotive side saw strings of autoracks being unloaded. The inbound traffic is mainly import vehicles and the outbounds are mainly Ford products. Our guides said that a while ago, there were a handful of the large custom motor coaches that were shipped west to California out of LPC. The auto facility has three long tracks that they spot autoracks in strings of six at a time. In all, more than 108 autoracks can be spotted for loading or unloading at one time on the fully-paved concrete pad. The auto facility lacks overhead lighting at present--they only load and unload during the day (seems that winter with its shorter hours of daylight would hamper operations).
There were a set of remote controlled BNSF locomotives working at both the north and south ends of the classification yard. We got off the bus at the north end to photograph the BNSF 2915 working with the BN 1409 and the BNSF 2435 (this unit being a GP30 still in ATSF blue and yellow). After that we went up past the new warehouse buildings on the east side of the yard and then stopped at the entrance so we could take a group shot of us at the BNSF Logistic Park sign and present Jim Keukck with a photo plaque thanking him for taking us around Corwith Yard last year. After a few shots at the entrance sign, it was on to have some lunch at the “Golden Arches Dinner Club” and then hit the road up to Cicero.
Jim Keukck met us up there and we met up with a relatively young Assistant Trainmaster named Alex. Alex led us around the facility. We mainly wanted to see and photograph the engine facility there. We first stopped off at the east side of the diesel shop--or more accurately, the turntable and the few remaining roundhouse stalls from CB&Q days. The BNSF 4217 (B23-7) and 8733 (GP60--both in blue and yellow) were near the turntable and we shot them before getting back on the bus and going over to the west side of the engine house.
When we got over there we pretty much had free reign of the area to shoot as we wanted--just as long as we crossed tracks at the driveways. Every imaginable BNSF scheme was present, along with a few visitors. The CSX 584 (in the current solid dark blue) was in the fueling rack with the BNSF 344, one of the Heritage painted GP60Bs. Illinois Central SD40 #6003 was there along with the BNSF 6466, an ex-ATSF SD45-2 still in the blue and yellow--but stenciled for “trailing unit service only.” A three unit lashup of the BNSF 8254, 4915 & 8267 drifted into the loco servicing area. Those BNSF 8200’s are SD75Ms that came delivered in the ATSF warbonnet scheme. After taking a few more group shots we thanked our BNSF tour guides and made our way back toward Schaumburg and then Rockford.
Another successful event--no worries about driving, getting run off from somewhere or seeing something desirable that you can’t get a shot of because it is located somewhere ‘off limits.’ With access to facilities that you normally can’t have, these trips are certainly enjoyed by those that go on them.
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