BNSF Symbols

From FYM Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

For years, trains in North America ran under a numbering system. Various railroads used different conventions for those systems, but it normally broke a number down into the Class of the train and which direction it was heading. Over the years, some railroads started playing with Alpha-Numeric symbols in an attempt to make the symbol a little easier to understand as to its origination/destination points (famously pioneered by the Southern Pacific). Through various mergers, acquisitions and what not, some of these new Alpha-Numeric symbols survived while other railroads went back to simple numbers.

Most of the eastern and Canadian railroads stuck with numbers, and once you understand how the numbers are assigned, it becomes fairly easy to see the logic behind them. Canadian National, on the other hand, expanded on the number system and now their trains run with a 5-digit number as the symbol (although its usually only the first three digits that are referenced as the train number). Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific both use the traditional Alpha-Numeric system, and many Class II and Shortline railroads have adopted a version of this. They have all followed some basic rules in applying these symbols, and you can get a sense of this by visiting the Second Sections or Extra Trains page for more information.

Then there's BNSF, who have made train symbols a science rather than an art form. Before the big merger that formed the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, both BN and ATSF ran with a numbering system for their trains. Both systems were neat and easy to understand. ATSF ran their trains with three-number symbols, indicating the originating region, the type of train and the terminating region. Chicago was in the #1 region and Northern California was #9, so the hottest train on the system was the 199 train (with its counterpart, the 991. These were UPS-dedicated trailer trains run between the Santa Fe's Willow Springs Yard near Chicago, to North Bay, CA. The middle '9' denoted a very hot train, and the lesser priority trains dropped down in number.

BN ran an even simpler system, with low-digit numbers being assigned to the hottest trains. #1 was the hot-shot from the former CB&Q Cicero Yard in Chicago, to South Seattle. #3 was the same type of train but ended up in Portland, OR. Under this system, the higher the number, the lower class a train had (with a bunch of locals in the 900s). Other conventions stood up over the years as well, with the 112/113 combination being an interchange train from Southern Pacific running between Portland and Seattle, which offered shippers a 'through-train' service on both railroads.

Unless you work at BNSF's headquarters in Ft. Worth, TX or have access to the Crew Management System on a computer, it is very difficult to discern what has become of the BNSF symbol system. There are commonalities between the train types, but BNSF is constantly fiddling with the way they symbol their trains, and recently did a complete overhaul of the intermodal business and changed all the symbols for those trains. In this article, we will do a deep dive into the workings of a BNSF symbol so the player may have a better understanding of what they're looking at when deciding which symbol to attach to a BNSF train in FYM. Changes/questions/comments are always appreciated and can be sent to KEL27.

Symbol Breakdown

To make this a little easier to understand, we will break down the entire system into two types of trains: Road Trains and Yard Trains. This doesn't imply that Road Trains don't work yards and visa-versa, but the symbols used are quite a bit different for the two types.

Road Trains

For Road Trains, they symbol can be broken down like this: A-BBBCCC#-##X#

Type Orig/Dest Special Date Computer
A BBBCCC # ## X#
  • A = Type of train, be it a manifest, unit train, etc. (List below)
  • BBB = The origination terminal of the train.
  • CCC = The destination terminal of the train.
  • # = The special characteristics of the train. This varies widely among the different categories of trains, at which we'll take a closer look.
  • ## = The date the train was called. This may differ from the date the train actually departs due to passing midnight, service disruptions, etc.
  • X# = This is the mystery number that is used internally by BNSF to determine any number of variables, including routing, crew logistics, sections, freight type and anything else they can think of.

There are (at last count) close to 4000 individual codes for origination and destination. Some of these are still hold-overs from stations that are closed or abandoned, while other are used solely to donate a specific type of interchange between BNSF and other railroads. Because of the amount, we will not be discussing the specifics of those codes unless they have a bearing on a particular train.

Train Type codes are listed here grouped by their normal "fleet" types:

  • B = Baretable Intermodal
  • S = International Intermodal
  • Q = Domestic Intermodal (there used to be a 'P' symbol to show Priority Intermodal, but it hasn't been used in some time)
  • Z = High Priority Domestic Intermodal (don't stand in their way)
  • V = Vehicle Trains
  • D = Planned Light Engine movements
  • J = Dimensional Special - usually Boeing aircraft trains or windmill specials.
  • H = High Priority Manifest - most of BNSF's manifest trains fall under this category, even if they're not that "high" of a priority.
  • M = Regular Manifest
  • L = Local (see Yard Trains)
  • R = Road Switcher (see Yard Trains)
  • T = Transfer (has many different meanings and can sometimes be found in Yard Trains as well)
  • G = Unit Agriculture Loaded (G for Grain)
  • X = Unit Agriculture Empty
  • C = Unit Coal Loaded (C for Coal)
  • E = Unit Coal Empty (E for Empty)
  • U = Unit Train not otherwise specified
  • Y = Yard Job (see Yard Trains)

As complicated as this looks, it does give BNSF a wide variety of options when the need arises to make a new train. Given the thousands of combinations that are possible, it is possible to set up a train in the computer from any point on the system to any other point on the system under with an option of train types.

Now let's break down each category:

Intermodal Services

There are four basic types of trains in the Intemodal Service Unit: Baretables, S-trains (International Stacks), Q-trains (Domestic Stacks) & Z-trains.

Baretables (B-trains) get their name from their appearance. The traditional baretable train is just a string of empty intermodal well cars, spine cars and intermodal flats, and when seen from a distance resembles a long, bare table. However, baretable trains can also be used to move empty intermodal equipment (like trailers and containers) to point where they're needed by a shipper. BNSF moves a lot of FedEx baretables out of the Pacific Northwest to Southern California as the equipment arrives brand new in Seattle or Portland. If containers are involved, these particular trains are usually single-stacked as BNSF's route to CA does not have the tunnel clearances needed for double-stacks. The type of baretable train can be seen by looking at it's number in the Special category.

  • 1 = made up entirely of Spine cars.
  • 4 = repositioning move, as in our FedEx example above.
  • 5 = made up entirely of International Well cars.
  • 7 = made up entirely of Domestic Well cars.

Note that in FYM we don't have the ability to mix loads in intermodal trains. We know that 53' domestic containers can ride on top of 40' international containers, but that is not possible to do in the game. At this time, we also don't have any way of discerning between full and empty containers, although that ability has been discussed.

International stacks (S-trains) are trains that handle only International Well cars.

Yard Trains

Type Orig Job Special Date Computer
A BBB ### # ## X#
  • A = Type of train: Local, Road Switcher or Yard
  • BBB = The origination Terminal or Division of the train.
  • ### = The job number of the train. This number has different meanings depending on the type of train.
  • # = The special characteristics of the train, usually whether the train is a regularly scheduled train or an extra.
  • ## = The date the train was called. This may differ from the date the train actually departs due to passing midnight, service disruptions, etc.
  • X# = This is the mystery number that is used internally by BNSF to determine any number of variables, including routing, crew logistics, sections, freight type and anything else they can think of.