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November 8, 2007
May 4th 1,996 started out like any SP4,449 steam excursion, happily waiting along side the BN main to Seattle at woodland Washington. I went to lunch in Kelso, then drove back to Kalama to do some rail videoing. Sitting watching a northbound UP pass, I heard on the radio a few minutes later "Whatcha got in those things, tomato soup?".
Needless to say I was baffled. Only after the crossing arms came down and a southbound single unit, 7 car, one caboose train went by did I understand what the comment meant.
I saw a (probably, but unsure) spent nuclear fuel train head southbound. I know that this train has/had a max 35MPH restriction on it when I caught it which made it easy to race from Kalama to Woodland, Vancouver, Wintler Park, and finally McLoughlin to get roll-bys of this train.
Car numbers if you are interested are:
BN 3,044 - GP40,
NS 101,512 - idler flat,
DODX 39,810 - 6 axle depressed center buckeye truck flat,
NS 101,528 - idler flat,
DODX 38,889 - 8 axle Thrall car,
NS 185,104 - 8 axle heavy load flat,
DODX 38,890 - 8 axle Thrall car,
DODX 39,835 - 8 axle heavy load flat,
DODX 901 - Caboose built in 3 of 1,973
After doing some research after I got this thing called 'The Internet', I found out that this was a regular thing on the rails. More than likely this train originated at the Naval base in Bangor Washington (where the infamous "White Train" went to in the 1,980's), and this train was headed to a place called (at the time) INEL, now known as INL or the Idaho National Laboratory to their facility NE of Arco ID, operated by the Department of Energy (DOE). Doing some research as of late, it seems that most of the DODX cars, the Thrall ones with 8 axles and the older 6 axle buckeye truck ones are stored there. (you do the research and find them...look for the shadows, that will let you know you found the right cars :)
I have seen these Thrall cars on some westbound BN trains as recently as July of 2,000. All of the time handled on the rear of the train and probably empty.
Logic says that when they are 'loaded' as they probably were in this video, they are shipped in a single train, with a Department of Defense marked caboose (DODX 901). The caboose has more antennas on it than the 'war wagon' van that accompanies the Presidents motorcade. I would assume that the caboose is setup to allow passengers to stay securely inside without a crew change for quite some time.
Words of advice - look, but don't touch. The guys in the caboose wouldn't like that. Heck, they liked me so much, they even took MY picture!