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Unique Arizona electrified line to close

THE 78-mile long electrified Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad (BM&LPRR) in the USA – the world’s first to use 50kV (60Hz) AC supply voltage – will close soon as the power station it serves is being shut in the next few weeks. 

The line is owned by a state utility supply company, and runs across desert terrain in the USA’s largest native American Indian self-governing reserve, the Navajo Nation, from the huge Kayenta open cast coal mine, in northern Arizona, to the power station at Page, in the north of the state.

BM&LPRR-liveried ex-NdM ‘E60C-2’ loco No. EA036 is leading with NdM-liveried Nos. EA027+039+034 trailing a train of empty coal hoppers from the power station at Page, in Arizona, as it is seen approaching the Black Mesa mine loading loop on January 12, 2009. Most of these locos still have NdM livery but it is unlikely they visited Mexico. The rapid abandonment of the electrification after privatisation of NdM in 1997 meant only 28 of the 39 ‘E60C-2’ locos ordered by NdM were delivered, the rest being stored in the USA and sold for re-use or scrap. KEITH FENDER

The power station, and consequently the mine and the railway, are closing as natural gas obtained from shale via fracking is substantially cheaper and requires less emission mitigation compared to coal. 

Peabody Energy, which owns the mine and power station, had permits allowing operation until 2044, but decided to close the entire operation as it uneconomic. The Navajo Nation receives substantial tax revenues from the power plant and mine, and attempted to buy it, but eventually decided not to as it would not be viable. 

Read more in the September 2019 issue of The RM – on sale now!

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