Coal cars in storage near Two HarborsSlowly but surely their numbers are growing—shiny, silvery rail cars all in a row, just outside of Two Harbors. Eighty of them arrived on Thursday, 44 more on Friday, another 148 next week, and possibly another batch after that.
By: Monica Isley, Lake County News Chronicle
Slowly but surely their numbers are growing—shiny, silvery rail cars all in a row, just outside of Two Harbors.
Eighty of them arrived on Thursday, 44 more on Friday, another 148 next week, and possibly another batch after that.
The cars normally carry coal from out West, but they've been temporarily sidelined and will remain in the area until the end of May, according to Ken Buehler, executive director of the North Shore Scenic Railway.
The NSSR owns the tracks on which the cars are sitting, and is responsible for hauling the cars to what has been turned into a temporary storage area. It's a service the local railway is providing—at a nice profit—for Wisconsin Public Services Corporation, which owns the cars.
"They're sitting on our main line, but we don't need that northern portion of the line until June, and by then they'll be gone," Buehler. During the winter months, the NSSR runs excursion trains only for short runs out of Duluth, but don't begin coming to Two Harbors until after Memorial Day.
Buehler said on Friday that normally, the cars form a 148-car "unit train" that hauls coal from the Powder River Basin area of Wyoming and Montana to the Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior, Wis., for redistribution to power plants. There is currently "excess capacity" in the system, Buehler said, so more coal won't need to be hauled until summer, when people start using more electricity to run air-conditioners.
Buehler said the opportunity for this "very nice income" came about through "a little work on my part and a lot of dumb luck," but it has provided a new piece of business for the railway that may be expanded in coming years.
The income will then make the tourist trains to Two Harbors a lot more feasible, Buehler said.
The cars being stored are not much more than a year old, are in excellent shape, and offer a much different sight than the familiar rusty-red ore cars the CN brings down from the Iron Range.
They will be pushed as close to Two Harbors as possible, many of them hidden from the road beyond the CN overpass near Earthwood Inn. But, the large numbers of the cars means many of them will be readily visible until the end of May.
During the next couple weeks, passersby can watch the NSSR engines moving, switching and rearranging the coal cars—something they don't normally get to do.
"Our guys are having a ball," Buehler said.