PAR/CSX: Bow Coal On New Route

Numerous Sources Indicate that as many as a Dozen Unit Coal Trains will Begin Deliveries to Merrimack Station Starting this Month. New Route will Avoid NS. Protests Expected.

15 November, Bow NH – For the first time since the winter of 2016/2017, Merrimack Station generation plant in Bow, NH is due to replenish its stock of coal. The plant serves to meet winter surge demand.

ANRP-exclusive and public sources state that the plant requires a dozen or more deliveries to meet its requirements over the next few years. Trains originating in Pennsylvania via CSX will probably keep their CSX power at Worcester, and pick up PAR locomotives at Ayer. Crews could be switched at either location.

Merrimack Power Station is north of Hooksett NH on the Merrimack River. The 440 mW generator plays a critical role in maintaining grid capacity during the winter, and will remain vital during the era of transition to renewable energy sources. There is no definitive plan to shut down the plant, despite vehement activist demands to immediately eliminate all fossil fuel-based energy sources. {Google Earth; annotated by ANRP (c)ANRP}.

According to historical conversation in the “Pan Am Coal Trains” thread on RailRoad.net, coal has not been railed through Worcester since the 1990s. Since then, NS/PAS through Rotterdam Junction has been the preferred route, at least in part due to its easier grades, compared to the southerly CSX route. The likely route for the new trains presents hurdles at Clark’s Summit PA, south of Binghampton, and then in Massachusetts over the Berkshire mountains and Charlton Hill. Speculations on how the upcoming trains will chug over these hills include splitting unit trains, running distributed power, or even alternative routing over the PAS Fitchburg Secondary. The last prospect seems unlikely.

Route will be cleared

From Ayer, the trains will head on the Freight Main to North Chelmsford, and then on the Northern Main through Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and Hookset (Concord Industrial Track) to Bow. There are no long-enough, available sidings along the route to tie the train down, so once out of Ayer, the crew will aim to keep moving all the way to Bow, which ideally will take 6-7 hours.

In anticipation of the coal trains and the necessity of keeping them moving without incident, the Northern is being treated its first substantial track work in several years. Since 05 November, track gangs have been working below the Merrimack, reportedly replacing 5000 ties { ANRP sources}. That work is currently causing delays for loads in/out north of Hookset.

Opposition expected

In September, more than 100 climate activists trespassed on Merrimack Station grounds, including the rail access way, to physically protest against the station’s continued use of coal as fuel, ( and for its general historical offense of privileging citizens with light and electricity – Ed. ). Many activists actively stole bucket-loads of coal from the pile. Sixty-seven were arrested. A dozen unit coal trains seem to present opportunities for more and bigger protests. Dozens of new “No Trespassing” signs may not be enough to prevent disruption of the transport or unloading activities.

Bow NH

Activists plundered the Bow coal pile during a mass protest in late September, hastening the need to replenish the power station’s stock ahead of winter. The plant serves as a stand-by source of electricity to meet winter surge demands. If this fellow returns to protest the auguring rail deliveries, at least he will be able to warm up afterward at home. {nocoalnogas.org}.