Friday, October 9, 2009

Retroactive Travel Post - Coal Trains

One thing that was really interesting about trip out west was that we got to see a lot of trains, all of the same variety - coal trains. I'd read an interesting story about coal trains by John Mcphee where he follows and studies the ones that fuel the insatiable electrical needs of this country, and it's nothing short of fascinating. You may be familiar with the whole culture of trainspotting, and for good reason. Trains are amazing.

The largest coal mine in the country is in Wyoming, right around where we were in Plains. I'm guessing there are more in the S. Dakota area, and we saw two in Utah. In fact, at one point when we were driving through some of the canyons, we literally drove right by one, complete with its own train depot. I sort of get off on stuff like that.

These trains run 24 hours a day and carry millions of pounds of coal to electricity plants all over the country. They are a mile long and weigh upwards of 30,000 tons. The sheer scale of it all is beyond my comprehension. We saw these trains everywhere, and they followed the same pattern. The empties were heading west, and the full trains were going east. Makes you realize what really makes this country run, and how far we really are from addressing the global warming issues. We spend so much time and energy worried about car emissions and don't give a second thought to leaving the lights on. Electric cars are considered the solution to global warming when in fact it's all part of the same problem - people.

When you think about places like New York City or Las Vegas and the incredible amount of power they use, or should I say waste, it boggles the mind.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Erno Bärlund for the pic.

No comments: