Letters to the Editor for June 4, 2013

Coal trains will benefit jobs, economy

I’ve spent 13 years at BNSF Railway, working on trains as conductor and engineer. I’ve dealt with a lot of manufactured products traveling on our trains. However, I’ve never had to deal with a manufactured issue until the recent conversation about coal dust.

This is a new issue for the Pacific Northwest, one that was nonexistent before coal export terminals were proposed for the region. But trains carrying coal have been traveling through the Northwest for decades, and I’ve worked on them directly. Whether they’re carrying coal to the power plant in Centralia, or north to coal export terminals in Canada, they’re a regular part of our railroad system.

Until the terminals were proposed in the Pacific Northwest, clean-air agencies in the region had not received a single complaint about coal dust. Among workers like me, who are in contact with trains carrying coal day in and day out — even loading and unloading them — there have not been complaints on this issue. People against these export terminals ignore all this, and claim coal dust from trains will be an issue in the Pacific Northwest. Among the people I work with, we’re truthfully outraged by these claims.

We work on trains every day, including those that carry coal. Those attempting to make this an issue are nowhere close to our knowledge of rail issues.

I’ve talked to many of my colleagues about this, and we believe these terminal opponents are trying to score points for a different cause. They aren’t interested in representing this issue accurately.

Rail companies have studied coal dust closer than anyone, because it can cause the need for maintenance on a rail line. They’ve found that nearly all dust is lost within miles of its loading point, which is far from our area in this case.

On top of that, a surfactant is sprayed on every load of this product, preventing dust from coming off trains and specifically designed to preserve nearby rail lines.

BNSF also determined that how you load the car makes a difference and now requires loading in a way that is most effective in reducing dust. I worked on these trains even before they started these practices, and never even saw it then.

The Northwest is going to see more trains carrying coal in the future, whether these terminals happen or not. Will there be more if they get built? Of course. I think that’s a good thing. Railroads are a good gauge of our economy. Extra trains mean extra jobs; they carry goods produced by workers, rail and port workers get them shipped, stores and restaurants serve those workers, etc.

I ask people against these terminals to argue accurately, and stop bringing trains into it. Trains are the most environmentally sensitive way to move products, with far fewer diesel emissions and more fuel efficiency than trucks. The downsides people attach to these terminals are pretty speculative. The job and economic benefits are not.

Robert Hill, Washougal

Steam returns to local tourist railroad

How many times do any of us get to experience the same historic event twice in a lifetime? Well, I did recently during the re-debut of steam locomotive No. 10 that is owned and operated by the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad located due north of Camas.

No. 10, after years of restoration, originally debuted in Yacolt on Dec. 2, 2006, and it looked to have a very promising future at the time. But, after operating a full schedule in 2007 everything came to a crashing halt due to a major dispute between the four owners of the steam locomotive.

After more than five years of legal wranglings and other delays, No. 10 made its triumphant return to the rails of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad on Saturday May 11, much to the delight of everyone that was gathered there that day.

So, welcome back old friend and full steam ahead for many years to come.

Kurt F. Anders, Centralia