• Buffer cars on unit tank trains

  • For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.
For topics on Class I and II passenger and freight operations more general in nature and not specifically related to a specific railroad with its own forum.

Moderator: Jeff Smith

  by RandallW
 
I recently watched this video which shows that one of the buffer cars on the a BNSF crude oil train is open and partly loaded with something (I presume as a ballast to increase stability).

This leads to two questions:
- how much ballast goes into those buffer cars (is it route dependent)?
- can any car be used as long as its correctly ballasted or are there other limitations / requirements (I am presuming box cars aren't used because bulk gravel or sand is the most readily available material to use as a ballast)?
  by Engineer Spike
 
Buffer cars are loaded because the forces on an empty might pull it off the track. I no longer work for BNSF, but another class 1. Our rules say that the buffer could be any loaded car which weighs 100 tons. Many of the buffer cars are old airside covered hoppers, while others are old grain cars, and they are listed as containing pebbles. I have seen times when no dedicated buffer cars were apparently available, and then any non hazardous loaded car used. One one oil train that I ran, the buffer had to be set out, since it was a regular car which was destined to the terminal where I got the train. A new buffer was needed, and it was a loaded car which was headed to where the unit train was headed. One other time our buffer developed a defect. We happened to be near a local yard. They instructed us to borrow a loaded car from the yard to use. Needless to say, it was a couple of days late making its way back, so that it could be delivered to the customer.