Navajo Mine Railroad

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Navajo Mine Railroad
Navajo Mine Railroad.png
Navajo Mine Railroad, mining status as of 2016
Type Freight railroad for sub-bituminous coal
Status Operating
Locale San Juan County, New Mexico
Termini South Terminals:
coal load outs in the Navajo Mine
North Terminal:
Four Corners Generating Station
Services push-pull operation between mine and power plant, 12 trains per day
Opened 1974
Operator(s) BHP Billiton
Character single track main line two branches
Rolling stock 4 x E60
3 x ALCO Century 425
2 x train with 21 coal hoppers
Line length 13.3 miles (21.4 km)
Track length 17.8 miles (28.6 km)
Number of tracks 1
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification 25 kV 60 Hz (AC) overhead catenary
Route map
0 Four Corner Power Plant
7 mi Hosteen stockpile
Barber stockpile
14 mi Lowe stockpile

The Navajo Mine Railroad (reporting mark TNMR) is an electrified private railroad operated by BHP Billiton in New Mexico, USA, within the Navajo Nation. It operates 13.8 miles (22.2 km) of track between the Four Corners Generating Station and BHP Billiton's Navajo Coal Mine.[1] The railroad does not have any connection to the national rail network.


A 7 miles long standard gauge line was built in 1974 from the power plant to the Hosteen stockpile. The line was expanded to the present 14 miles in 1983. Since there is not connection to the rest of the railroad network, the 3 diesel locomotives and 22 Maxon bottom dump coal hopper cars had to be transported from Gallup on low-bed trucks to the Navajo Mine Railroad. At the beginning only one train was operated. There were problems with clogged oil bath filters on the diesel locomotives due to excessive coal dust, but the issues could be solved with a new filter type.

Electric operation started 1984 since it is more economic. Diesel operation became too expensive with the increasing trains loads and fuel prices. Furthermore another 20 hopper cars were purchased in order that two trains could be built, each having 18 cars.


The line runs from the Navajo Mine north-northwest to the Four Corners Generating Station, which is located 25 miles west of Farmington, New Mexico. It has no connection to any other railroad.


The trains are operated with an electric locomotive E60 on the North end and a diesel locomotive ALCO Century 425, where this one acts normally as a dummy. It serves normally only as a control cab to for the radio remote controlled E60, when the empty train is heading back to the mine. The prime mover is still present to provide emergency power in case of an electricity outage. There are two trains in operation, theoretically a third train could be operated. Each train consist of 21 coal hoppers. Both trains make typically 12 round trips a day in a 24 hour operation.[2][3] There is only one crew member at work, who takes an empty train to the coal load out, where he changes to the full train to drive it back to the power plant. While this train is underway, the other one gets loaded.[4]

The catenary has a voltage of 25 kV 60 Hz AC. The pantographs of the E60s are mounted on top of pedestals on the roof to adapt their working height to the unusual high catenary position. Extra filters for cleaning the machine room air are mounted on the roof of the locomotive.[3]

At the coal load outs the coal is loaded with front-end loaders in the hopper cars. Each car has a capacity between 100 and 125 tons.[2]

Motive Power[edit]

  • General Electric E60 with the road numbers LOE20, LOE21 and LOE23. These locomotives were built for Amtrak with the road numbers #961, #963 and #968 and were sold directly to the Navajo Mine Railroad, except #961, which was first sold to New Jersey Transit. All these locomotives have been scrapped in 2003 and replaced by four E60s first delivered to Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México. These locomotives were not anymore used in Mexico since the operation of Mexico CityIrapuato was switched to diesel.
  • ALCO Century 425 with the road numbers LOD7, LOD8 and LOD9. All locomotives are former Norfolk & Western (N&W) engines, which had the road numbers #1000, #1002 and #1005. The locomotives were originally ordered by the Wabash Railroad, before the merger with the N&W. They were rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen for the operation on the Navajo Mine Railroad.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Myrick, David F. (1990). New Mexico's Railroads: A Historical Survey. University of New Mexico Press. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-8263-1185-6. 
  2. ^ a b "Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine Energy Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Section 2 - Current Operations of Navajo Mine, FCPP, and Transmission Lines" (PDF). March 2014. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  3. ^ a b "Navajo Mine Railroad". Trainz. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  4. ^ "Navajo Mine Railroad". Retrieved 2016-11-06.