Train Sim World
Tonnage in the Canyons
Written by Gary Dolzall
With Union Pacific’s Cane Creek Subdivision coming soon to Train Sim World 2, we take a look at operations on the rugged and scenic Utah rail line.
Heavy tonnage, tough grades, rugged canyons, and dry desert heat – those are just a few of the challenges that railroaders face on the Union Pacific’s famed Cane Creek Subdivision. And soon, you too will tackle challenging contemporary American freight railroading, with the upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision route for Train Sim World 2. Skillfully and masterfully developed for Train Sim World 2 by Skyhook Games, this upcoming route re-creates Union Pacific’s Cane Creek Subdivision, also known as the Cane Creek Branch, which was constructed by UP predecessor Rio Grande (D&RGW). Let’s take a further look at the remarkable and stunningly scenic route, its operations, and its equipment.
Widely renowned for its extraordinary Utah desert and canyon scenery, the Cane Creek Subdivision extends from a connection with Union Pacific’s Green River Subdivision at Brendel, Utah south to Potash, Utah, 35.8 route miles. As created for Train Sim World 2, the route will also include a five-mile section of the UP’s Green River Subdivision east from Brendel to Thompson, Utah.
From Thompson to Brendel, the Cane Creek route re-creates Union Pacific’s ex-Rio Grande main line which is today home to both tonnage and Amtrak’s California Zephyr. This section of signaled main line delivers the chance for 60-mph running and both Thompson and Brendel have siding facilities. Brendel is the site at which contaminated uranium mine tailings gathered on the branch line at Moab are deposited.
In stretching the 35.8 miles from Brendel to Potash, the Cane Creek Subdivision begins at an elevation of 4,908 feet at Brendel and descends to 3,952 feet at Potash. For much of the distance, the grade is pegged at 1.2 percent, but the line is roller coaster in nature with the southbound descent toward Potash interrupted by 1.2 percent climbs near Hilltop and Seven Mile. Seven Mile is also home to a passing track and small rock loading facility.
At Moab, immediately past the site of the tailings loading facility, the line enters 7,059-foot-long Bootlegger Tunnel, built on a 1.2 percent northbound grade. After passing through extraordinary Bootlegger Canyon, the line comes alongside the wide and historic Colorado River and then reaches Potash, site of the massive mine and processing facility which opened in 1964.
Hauling potash from the mine at Potash and contaminated uranium mine tailings from Moab are the purposes of the contemporary Cane Creek Subdivision. Since both of these duties involve totting loads northbound – which is to say up a climb of near 1,000-feet in elevation – the route involves hard-hauling and requires plenty of horsepower.
The Cane Creek’s tradition staple dating back to the early 1960s – potash – is handled in “Potash Turns” which originate on the Union Pacific at Grand Junction, Colorado, deliver empties to Potash, switch the facility, then head north with heavy loads. In addition to the potash, which is handled in covered hoppers, these turns also frequently handle chemical-laden tank cars bound for the mine facility. Typical power on the potash turns is two- or-three-unit sets of Union Pacific six-axle diesels.
After decades of being reliant on the movement of potash, beginning in 2008 the Cane Creek Subdivision took on another heavy-haul job. Moab had been the site of a Uranium mill which closed in 1984, leaving approximately 12 million tons of dirt tailings behind. While these tailings are only modestly radioactive, the risk of their erosion into the nearby Colorado River required eventually reclamation. Under the auspices of the United States Department of Energy, a burial site for the tailings was developed at Brendel and train loads of the contaminated soil began moving over the length of the Cane Creek Subdivision to Brendel. Enter the “dirty dirt trains”.
The Union Pacific dirty dirt trains also operate as turns – in this case, taking empties from Brendel to Moab, picking up loads, and returning to Brendel where the tailings are then buried. Because there is no passing track for run-around movements at Moab, the dirt trains typically operate with Union Pacific six-axle diesels fore and aft, adding further operation variety and interest to the line.
The upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision route will include a duo of appropriate Union Pacific six-axle, high-horsepower diesels – the venerable Electro-Motive SD40-2 and potent General Electric AC4400CW.
The 3,000-horsepower EMD SD40-2 debuted in 1972 and in a production run through 1986, EMD produced nearly 4,000 SD40-2s, making the locomotive one of the most successful of all time. The SD40-2 was purchased by 24 North American railroads and among the largest buyers was Union Pacific. Between 1972 and 1980, UP purchased nearly 600 SD40-2s, and the railroad’s fleet of the versatile diesel grew even larger via UP’s mergers with Missouri Pacific, Chicago & North Western, and Katy, which together added nearly 500 more SD40-2s to Union Pacific’s roster. Today, the Union Pacific continues to operate a large fleet of the now veteran diesels which have been upgraded in a rebuilding program at Union Pacific’s Jenks Locomotive Facility in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Union Pacific classifies its rebuilt diesels as the SD40N.
Constructed by General Electric, the 4,400-horsepower, A.C.-traction-equipped AC4400CW is a landmark railroad workhorse with more than 2,500 units produced between 1983 and 2004. By far the type’s most active buyer, Union Pacific purchased more than 1,000 AC4400CWs between 1994 and 2004. And as with the SD40-2, mergers brought more AC4400CWs to the UP, with Southern Pacific and Chicago & North Western contributing more than 300 additional units. Union Pacific has begun to rebuild and upgrade its massive fleet of AC4400CWs, which are expected to remain in front-line Union Pacific service for years to come.
Along with the pair of authentic Union Pacific locomotives, the Cane Creek Subdivision route will include two types of covered hoppers – a cylindrical hopper in two weathered liveries and a new Union Pacific ribbed-side covered hopper. The covered hoppers feature animated roof hatches and interiors for loading. And also included are a tank car and a weathered open-top hopper (with and without graffiti). Get Ready to Go to Work!
Just as on the real-life Cane Creek Subdivision, there will be lots of demanding, challenging railroading work to perform on the upcoming Train Sim World 2 edition. The scenic route will feature interactive facilities at Potash, Moab, and Brendel, a selection of a dozen realistic road-haul and switching scenarios, and a busy 24-hour timetable! – Gary Dolzall
Heavy tonnage, tough grades, rugged canyons, and desert heat – those are just a few of the challenges that railroaders face on the Union Pacific’s famed Cane Creek Subdivision. And soon, you too will tackle challenging contemporary American freight railroading, with the upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision route for Train Sim World 2. Nearing Moab, a trio of Union Pacific EMD SD40-2s have the “Potash Turn” in tow.
The Cane Creek Subdivision extends from a connection with Union Pacific’s Green River Subdivision at Brendel, Utah south Potash, Utah, home to a massive potash mine and facility. On the upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision route at Brendel, UP GE AC4400CWs fore and aft are entering the branch line (above) with the consist of a “dirty dirt train” bound for Moab, then pass the line’s approach signal (below).
Bound for Potash on the upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision route created by Skyhook Games, a trio of Union Pacific EMD SD40-2s have the Potash Turn in tow near Seven Mile (above), then dive through the line’s deep and long rock cut near Moab (below).
Moab, Utah had been the site of a Uranium mill which closed in 1984, leaving approximately 12 million tons of dirt tailings behind. With “dirty dirt trains,” Union Pacific now transports these tailings to Brendel for burial. At Moab, Union Pacific AC4400CW 6788 and a sister are readying for a northbound departure.
Having made its way through 7,059-foot-long Bootlegger Tunnel, UP SD40-2 1609 and kin are dropping down the line’s 1.2 percent grade as the train enters Bootlegger Canyon en route to Potash with a string of covered hoppers to be loaded at the potash mine (above). A short time later, the train rolls high above the legendary Colorado River (below). The upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision for Train Sim World 2 re-creates some of the most rugged, remote, and awe-inspiring rail scenes in all of America.
The sprawling potash mine and facility at Potash, Utah, opened in 1964, was the reason the Cane Creek Branch was built by the D&RGW and has ever since been a steady provider of tonnage first for the Rio Grande and now the Union Pacific. Even SD40-2s are dwarfed by the mine and towering cliffs at Potash (above). Another day is dawning in the Utah desert as the potash facility makes for a stunning sight (below).
The upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision route will include a duo of Union Pacific six-axle, high-horsepower diesels – the venerable Electro-Motive SD40-2 (above) and potent General Electric AC4400CW (below). Trains on the subdivision are required to haul heavy potash and dirt loads northbound up a ruling gradient of 1.2 percent with a total climb of nearly 1,000 feet in elevation, which requires lots of horsepower.
A dirty dirt train prepares for loading at Moab. The scenic route will feature interactive facilities at Potash, Moab, and Brendel, a selection of a dozen realistic road-haul and switching scenarios, and a busy 24-hour timetable!
The upcoming Cane Creek Subdivision route for Train Sim World 2 will take you into the very heart of Utah’s legendary desert and canyon country in scenic settings that are awesomely realistic – and it’s coming soon, Make sure you're following @trainsimworld on Twitter and Facebook. to make sure you don't miss the next article!
Screenshots by Gary Dolzall.
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Train Sim World
Tonnage in the Canyons