Capacity, efficiency projects demonstrate BNSF’s commitment to growth in the West

Highlighting our commitment to safety, service, innovation, people, communities and our heritage.

Aug 28, 2023

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4 min.

Capacity, efficiency projects demonstrate BNSF’s commitment to growth in the West

If you look at a U.S. rail network map, you’ll clearly see that BNSF Railway is a Western railroad. And while every location where we operate in 28 states and three Canadian provinces is vitally important, we have long had a strong focus on growth in the West. With the West Coast the largest gateway for imports into the nation, the future of the West is essential to the future of the U.S. economy.

BNSF has always had a bias for growth, and our employees are committed to having the people, infrastructure and capacity to meet the needs of our customers. Recently, employees from across our network shared some of their experiences working for BNSF and what being a railroader – and meeting those customer needs – means to them.


As those in the video shared, our team is dedicated to being the best intermodal provider and partner, and we accomplish that by:

  • Investing in our best-in-class facilities and infrastructure to support improved service reliability and meet the needs of our customers today
  • Creating and deploying industry-leading, transformational technology
  • Building with a future-facing mindset for the capacity our customers will need tomorrow

One West Coast facility we’ve invested in is our Hobart intermodal facility in Los Angeles. Hobart is North America’s largest rail intermodal facility, with the capability to perform more than 1 million lifts per year.

In California, especially Southern California, the real estate market is incredibly competitive. In places like Hobart, we must continuously find creative ways to create capacity. In this case, that way is to go up instead of out. We’ve tested multiple container stacking technologies, and one example is a product called Pathfinder that we developed in collaboration with crane manufacturer Mi-Jack.

Pathfinder is as much about enabling improved driver productivity and chassis efficiency as it is about stacking. Pathfinder pre-positions the stacking work autonomously, whether it’s a pick-up for a driver or delivery to the crane operator to put in the stack. This not only improves hostler efficiency and overall container velocity, but also serves as an enabler for future, more sustainable process enhancements.

Check out this video to see what makes Pathfinder so special:


We’ve live-tested Pathfinder at Hobart since the beginning of 2023 and are pursuing opportunities where this technology may be applicable at other locations on our network, including future facilities like the Barstow International Gateway (BIG) in California.

At our intermodal facility in Stockton, California, we began a multi-year expansion project this year, building a new production track, two additional support tracks, and approximately 950 parking stalls. Once complete, this expansion work will increase our production capacity at Stockton by more than 30%, supporting both current freight demand and future growth. Click here for a bird’s-eye view of the expansion work at Stockton:


We’re also continuing a multi-year project to increase efficiency at our San Bernardino, California, intermodal facility. The work on the “Ono Lead” will essentially add a fourth main track in and out of the facility. Picture the work as a frontage road into the facility – this 10,000-foot lead track expansion allows us to operate trains in and out of the facility or perform switching operations without disrupting our “interstate” mainline traffic running past the facility. This will enhance the consistency and throughput of trains through this key segment on our network. Take a look at the work being done at San Bernardino.


Finally, the ongoing expansion work on our Needles Subdivision ensures that our network is in top condition. Serving as a connection to our future BIG facility, the Needles Subdivision connects Barstow to Needles, California, ultimately connecting both Northern California and Southern California terminals to the facilities we serve in markets like Memphis, Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Chicago, and Phoenix.

We’re constructing approximately 60 miles of triple track on the Needles Sub. Our Engineering teams have tackled this project head-on from the very beginning, bringing the first 10 miles in service in 2022 ahead of peak season and about two months ahead of schedule.

As one of the busiest sections along our Southern Transcon and passing through rough terrain in the Tehachapi Mountains, this project required some major rock cuts and significant grading. We now have about 20 miles of the project in service, with 10 more to go this year before starting the next 30-mile stretch in 2024, for which we have already begun grading.

This work not only positions us for growth, but will help with recoverability during potential service interruptions by allowing us to safely keep trains moving in the area as well as handling seasonal volume swings with better consistency. We’ve already seen improvement across this segment, including a 10% velocity increase since the capacity was added. Here's a sneak peek of the ongoing work on the Needles Sub.


These investments combined with the commitment of our employees ensures that we’re ready to continue supporting our customers to go West and keep the freight we all depend on moving through the U.S. and beyond.

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