Montana Rail Link

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Montana Rail Link
Montana rail link logo.jpg
MRL 652 EMD SD19-1.jpg
MRL #652 EMD SD19-1, coupled between two Union Pacific engines.
Reporting mark MRL
Locale Idaho, Montana, Washington
Dates of operation 1987–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Missoula, Montana
Montana Rail Link
BNSF to Seattle
BNSF to Portland
BNSF to Kettle Falls
Spokane
Yardley
Hauser
Coeur d'Alene
Sandpoint
BNSF to Bonners Ferry
Joint trackage with BNSF to Spokane
Kootenai
Hope
Clark Fork
Noxon
Trout Creek
Thompson Falls
Woodlin
Plains
Polson
Pablo
Paradise
St Regis
Ronan
Perma
Superior
Charlo
Frenchtown
Dixon
Schilling
Ravalli
Arlee
DeSmet
Missoula
Lolo
Bonner
Florence
Clinton
Stevensville
Bearmouth
Victor
Drummond
Hall
Corvallis
Gold Creek
Maxville
Hamilton
Phosphate
Philipsburg
Darby
Garrison
BNSF to Butte
Avon
Elliston
Blossburg
Mullan Pass
Mullan Tunnel 3,426-foot (1,044 m)
BNSF to Great Falls
Helena
East Helena
Montanna City
Spire Rock
Louisville
Winston
Twin Bridge
Townsend
Whitehall
Sheridan
Toston
Sappington
Alder
Clarkson
Harrison
Trident
Three Forks
Logan
Manhattan
Belgrade
Bozeman
Bozeman Pass
Bozeman Tunnel 3,015-foot (919 m)
Wilsall
Livingston
City Park
Mission
Big Timber
Greycliff
Reed Point
Columbus
BNSF to Denver
Laurel
Mossmain
BNSF to Great Falls
Billings
East Billings
Huntley
BNSF to Kansas City
Jones Junction
BNSF to Twin Cities

Montana Rail Link (reporting mark MRL) is a privately held Class II railroad in the United States. MRL, which operates on trackage originally built by the Northern Pacific Railway, is a unit of the Washington Companies,[1] and is headquartered in Missoula, Montana.

The railroad runs between Huntley, Montana and Spokane, Washington, largely within Montana, and the main line passes through the towns of Missoula, Livingston, Bozeman, Billings, and Helena. Montana Rail Link connects with the BNSF on both ends and also in Garrison, Montana. The railroad has over 900 miles (1,400 km) of track, serves 100 stations, and employs approximately 1,000 personnel. The main yard is in Laurel, Montana, with smaller yards located in Missoula, Billings, and Helena.[2]

Montana Rail Link's present status and main line date back to 1987, when MRL under Missoula businessman Dennis Washington agreed to lease Burlington Northern's southern Montana main line between Sandpoint, Idaho and Huntley, Montana, near Billings. This spin-off was controversial as it happened during contract negotiations between Burlington Northern and the United Transportation Union. MRL workers are represented by various unions. Montana Rail Link trains operate between Billings, MT and Spokane, WA using trackage rights over BN successor BNSF Railway's tracks connecting those points.

Montana Rail Link boxcar on the CRANDIC at Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Montana Rail Link still uses cabooses, which are used to carry remote control switching equipment on Laurel switch engines. A significant number of MRL movements are actually BNSF trains, complete with locomotives, that MRL receives at one end of its track and forwards back to BNSF at the other end. MRL also operates trains of its own to gather and distribute local freight along its lines. Forest products and grain are primary commodities, and MRL also operates a special train, called the Gas Local, between Missoula and Thompson Falls, Montana, to bridge a gap in a long-distance gasoline pipeline.

On September 8, 2005, Montana Rail Link took delivery of locomotive number 4300, the first of 16 new EMD SD70ACe locomotives. This is the first locomotive that the railroad has ordered new from a manufacturer, and it and the rest of the class are intended to replace aging SD40 and SD45 class locomotives on trains crossing the Rocky Mountains over the continental divide at Mullan Pass near Helena, Montana and Bozeman Pass near Bozeman, Montana.[3] One of the most severe accidents in MRL history was the Helena Train Wreck of February 2, 1989, when 48 decoupled rail cars rolled backwards into Helena, hit a parked work train, caught fire and exploded. While property damage was extensive, there was no loss of life.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Taking the last name of Dennis Washington rather than the state of Washington.
  2. ^ For a general guide to the railroad, see Del Grosso, "Montana Rail Link Trackside Guide and Locomotive Directory" (1992, Great Northern Pacific Publications).
  3. ^ Danneman, Thomas (March 2006). "New Muscle for Montana". Trains Magazine 66 (3): p 38–41. 
  4. ^ Brandt, Angela (February 1, 2009). "20 Years Ago Today, Helena Shook, Rattled and Froze". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved January 22, 2012. 

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