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Power North
BNSF Motive Power On The Big Horn Subdivision

The Powder River Division
     The Powder River Division of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), shown in red on the accompanying map, extends from Ravenna, Nebraska to Huntley, Montana -- at Jones Junction -- east of Billings. The Division, former CB&Q track, branches south from
 View Division Map at 600x448 - 62kb Alliance, NE to Northport, NE and then on to East Sterling, Colorado. Back at Northport, the line cuts northwest to Shawnee, Wyoming. There, the BNSF meets the Union Pacific and they share track along the so-called "Orin Cut-Off" (red & yellow). The shared track parallels WY Rt. 59 extending north as far as Caballo Junction. The BNSF line then continues north to connect with the northern portion of the Powder River Division at Donkey Creek Jct., a few miles east of Gillette, WY.
     The Orin Cut-Off, completed in November 1979, serves the numerous large coal mines in this area of the Powder River Basin. This is a busy stretch of track to say the least. Much of the line along the Cut-Off is double and triple tracked to handle the high volume of traffic. Here, the railfan may see as many as fifty 120-car coal drags a day; many of them BNSF trains moving north through Sheridan, WY over the Powder River Division's northern-most subdivision, the Big Horn Sub.

Where's the PRB?
 Powder River  Arvada, WY      The Powder River Basin, often referred to simply as the PRB, lies east of the Bighorn Mountains in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana. The basin is a large area more or less centered on the Powder River. The river, aptly named for the gunpowder-like appearance of its banks, flows from numerous tributaries in Wyoming northeastward into Montana to join with the Yellowstone River. Highly productive coal mines, most of them large surface mines, are sprinkled throughout the basin. A concentration of mines along the BNSF's Orin Subdivision generates the majority of coal traffic coming out of the basin.
                     (see the Division and Subdivision maps in this article)

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Copyright 2000-2001 John Olson
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