UP Pushers in Central California

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#1
Hey everyone. Casual train fan here. I live in the Central CA area and do a lot of driving between Bakersfield and Merced on the 99 which has the UP line running along side of it. Lately all of the UP trains I've seen have had pushers at the end, usually one since they aren't that long in this area. Can anyone explain why the sudden change or the benefit of having pushers?
 
#2
You are seeing Distributed Power Units that are remote controlled from the lead locomotive. The likely reason you are seeing those pushers or mid train helpers is because they would be inserted in the train in places like Roseville (Sacramento area) or Oakland, California. It is just easier and cheaper for the UP to insert those units at those major yards and KEEP them in the train into West Colton (Los Angeles area). That is where most of those freight trains you see along California highway 99 Originate and Terminate (former SP Fresno Line). I know it seems rather odd to see helpers(pushers) on trains running in the FLAT and LONG San Joaquin Valley area.

By the way, when I used to railfan the Stockton Tower area in Stockton, (california) I would see these DPU mid train pushers on BNSF trains arriving from the north (going southbound). These trains that I saw originate in places like Pasco, WA (washington), Vancouver, WA (Portland, OR area) and Everett, WA (Seattle WA). Those BNSF trains usually are enroute to the large Barstow, California yard in the southern California High Desert. Here is the Wikipedia article on Distributed power units :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_power

This is why you would see DPU units on the BNSF tracks (former ATSF) in the Fresno area. The BNSF line is where the frequent Amtrak San Joaquin corridor trains run (Amtrak California). I hope this helps to explain this rather odd sight out in full size railroading land !!!
-- Daniel
 


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