Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hauling Coke on the Southern Pacific Santa Barbara Subdivision

Yet another train for the SP Santa Barbara Subdivision...petroleum coke.

This train originates at Callender and carries petroleum coke produced at the refinery there.  The refinery was originally owned by Union Oil of California.  It has changed hands several times including Tosco, Conoco, and now, Phillips.  The 'green' coke was further processed at an adjacent facility originally operated by Collier Carbon and Chemical Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Oil of California.  The calcining plant heated the green coke and drove off more impurities as well as slightly changing the physical nature of the coke, making it a more efficient fuel source.  The calcining plant was closed in March 2007 to reduce air pollution in an agreement with the local air pollution control district.  Information about the closure and the coke stockpile reduction is available in the Conoco Phillips Santa Maria Refinery Throughput Increase DEIR (draft environmental impact report) starting on page 2-13. 
The report also includes reference to multiple unit trains, typically 22 cars each carrying approximately 100 tons of green coke, transport a shipload of petroleum coke to the ports.
There was a bulk loader in San Pedro.  I remember it in the late 60's and was intriqued by the rotary dumper.  It was just off Miner Street, but that is all gone now, replaced by yacht marinas.
In previous times unit trains were sent north over Altamont Pass to the Port of Stockton and also to Trona via a connection to the Trona Railway by way of the Jawbone Branch of the SP east of Mojave.  Here are a couple photos of those earlier trains.
Jim Evans photo of the rear of a coke train eastbound
over Altamont Pass for delivery to the Port of Stockton

Later 1995 train passing Santa Barbara

Currently, the green coke is transported in hoppers with special fabricated covers.  Some of it is still shipped out of the LA/LB Harbor area at the Metropolitan Stevadores
facility located South of Harbor Plaza between Pier F Ave. and Pier G Ave. with the ships coming in to basin 6.  Here is a photo.
Newer covered hoppers at the Metropolitan Stevedore facility in Long Beach.
Note the MetroPorts locomotive.

Here are some photos of the Callender facility.
Aerial view from Bing Maps

Loading facility at Callender

Sulfur piles at Callender.  The sulfur is removed as part of the refining process.
The elemental sulfur is shipped primarily by truck but the plant does have facilities for rail transport.

Currently they are using some GACX hoppers that have covers due to a problem several years ago when the coke blew off the top of several hoppers and down onto the beach under the Gaviota Trestle.  Not knowing what the material was the hazardous material team was called out.  After the incident, Santa Barbara County asked UP to cover the loads.  [Petroleum coke is like coal - fairly inert.]

In the past I remember seeing a mix of hoppers, usually 100-ton but also some smaller ones.  I think my memory is more of the later 1990's after the UP was running the train.  Mostly UP owned hoppers - UP, SP, MP, CHTT, DRGW, etc.

I  am using Walthers 100-ton quad hoppers and some Bowser 3-bay hoppers.  I cut some bass wood to fit the openings.  I glued a fender washer to the basswood so that I could remove the load with a magnet.  I then covered the bass wood blank with real coal - not coke - and secured it with dilute white glue.  I did put some drops of isopropyl alcohol on the coal first to encourage the glue to penetrate all areas of the coal.  Here are a couple in process photos.
Bass wood cut into blanks to fit the hoppers

Blanks showing fender washers in place and some finished loads drying

Here are some photos of the finished loads in place.

Loaded Coke train passing through Santa Barbara

Loaded coke train passing Santa Barbara Depot

On to the next project.

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