By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Citizens in Liberal will soon be seeing much more train traffic going through town.
Union Pacific is currently undertaking a project of upgrading and laying down new rail throughout the area. In this district, crews started out around Plains, made it to Kismet and now crews have come back and will be laying rail from Kismet to Tyrone, Okla. The reason for these upgrades is due to the age and fatigue of the current rail.
“It’s part of the maintenance, just like if you need to renew a highway you need to renew the railroads,” a former Union Pacific employee who is working with crews said. The employee spoke anonymously since the person was not sanctioned to speak on behalf of Union Pacific. “Back when the railroads first started they had wooden boxcars and they used a really small size (rail) and then they started getting heavier so they used a bigger size and now they’ve gotten even heavier – just like trucks are getting heavier – and now you have to put heavier rail. All this upgrading is to keep the railroad going at freights’ standard 70 mph.”
This won’t be the last of the maintenance, however. The Union Pacific employee added the company will be putting in new ties next year.
With the upgrades to the railroads, there is also expected to be a roughly 30 percent increase in the amount of train traffic that moves through Liberal, which already sees an average 38 trains come through every day. However, citizens will not really be able to tell this increase since the upgrades are expected to help trains go through faster and quieter.
Another benefit for increased speed of traffic is because Liberal also happens to be part of the shortest route between Chicago and Los Angeles.
“Liberal’s on a route from Chicago to L.A. (the shortest route) and we can beat truck traffic — in fact, truck hauls are being put on our trains because they can put them on in Chicago, we can put them on in L.A. with a little wiggle room to the final destination,” the Union Pacific employee said. “Same thing coming back, they’ll leave the ports at L.A. come to Chicago and through St. Louis and distribute everything. Everyone’s working together on this — FedEx, UPS, J.B. Hunt — all the truck companies you see on the road.”