Monday, August 7, 2006

A Train Puzzle

No, this isn't one of those brain teasers where you have a train leaving one city at a certain time, and another one leaving somewhere else at a certain time, and then way too many other details for me to every keep track of! This is a real-life mystery that I'm sleuthing around on the internet trying to put the clues together to get the solution! (Yes, I'm easily entertained.)

A railroad track runs past our new apartment. It's only about a half-block away so we have front row seats for every train that goes past both day and night! People tell us we will get used to it and begin to tune them out, but so far we haven't. The trains run frequently! We haven't kept a log yet... (I want to. I told the kids that we will have a unit study on trains this fall.) ...but they go by every 5 to 45 minutes. It's interesting to notice what kinds of cars are in each train... grain cars, box cars, tank cars, flat cars with containers, and several I don't know what to call. But, of course, we never see a passenger car. And that is where the "mystery" comes in.

About 30 miles northeast of us is an Amtrak depot (in Sandpoint, Idaho). The Amtrak route runs from Sandpoint to Spokane, Washington. So I assumed that the Amtrak train did come past our house, but just in the middle of the night, which is why we never saw it. (I remembered from looking up Amtrak once a long time ago that it only came through Sandpoint once a day, about midnight.)

Well, yesterday I happened to notice that there is another railroad track that runs more or less parallel to this one about 4 miles south of here. Hmmmm, maybe Amtrak runs on that one? So... that's my puzzle!

I hopped on line and did some digging around until I discovered that "our" train track is the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe. At least I was pretty sure it was. I confirmed that this morning when I noticed that the engines going by had BNSF on them. The other railroad, from all I can figure out, is the Union Pacific.

Ya know, it never really occurred to me before that each railroad track you ever cross belongs to a particular railroad. Probably because I never really thought about trains much before at all. Naturally, I know the story of the race to connect the Union Pacific with the Central Pacific to make the transcontinental railroad... but beyond that, I have no idea what's what.

So now the question remains, does the Amtrak train from Sandpoint to Spokane travel the BNSF line or the UP line? Inquiring minds want to know!

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