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What More Coal Trains Mean To A Railway Engineer


Robert Hill walks with his daughter, Vanessa, in their home town of  Washougal, Wash. Hill is a BNSF Railway engineer. His trains have hauled coal and he's not worried about coal dust harming the environment or human health.

Robert Hill walks with his daughter, Vanessa, in their home town of Washougal, Wash. Hill is a BNSF Railway engineer. His trains have hauled coal and he's not worried about coal dust harming the environment or human health.

Amanda Peacher/OPB

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Editor’s Note: Should coal from Wyoming and Montana be transported through the Pacific Northwest and shipped to Asia? In our multimedia project, “Voices of Coal,” we bring you nine diverse perspectives from people across the region with a stake in that debate. Today’s installment: The coal train engineer.

Robert Hill is an engineer for BNSF Railway. He conducts some of the coal trains that travel through the Northwest. To Hill, concerns about coal dust and noise from coal trains are overblown.

Coal trains have been coming through many communities for many years, Hill says, and there has never been an issue with coal dust — or with coal, period. What coal export terminals will mean for the region, Hill says, is more jobs and an economic boon.

Although his mind is made up, Hill says he appreciates that communities want to have a say about moving coal through the Northwest. That includes his hometown of Washougal, Wash. It’s on a train route along the Columbia River.

Coal By The Numbers

  • Depending on which of the five proposed coal export terminals are approved, anywhere from 5 million to 103 million tons of coal could be transported through Washougal and other rail towns on the Washington side of the Columbia River
  • That could mean as few as four or as many as 20 additional trains coming through these communities.
  • BNSF Railway says it’s too early to project the number of jobs the company may create if it gets contracts to haul more coal through the Northwest.

Click any image below to visit Voices of Coal.

Screen shot 2013-03-02 at 6.42.28 AM voicesgrid

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