I have returned to my old routine of walking along the famous BNSF "Racetrack" just to the west of here. I know that I can walk from one particular street to another and back which equals 2 miles. I also hope to catch a few trains to watch since it's one of the busiest lines in the US. The other day I saw a unit train (all the same type of cars) of gondolas heading east with the marking MGPX. About 5 minutes later there was another unit train of exactly the same gondolas heading west. WTF?!? A little Internet research revealed that the company that owns the gondolas was Magnetation which processes iron ore pellets. They had just opened a major new processing facility in Indiana. Obviously I had just witnessed an empty train heading in one direction with a loaded train going in the opposite direction.
Today I was walking along the tracks and there was a major FUBAR. BNSF was doing some work on a grade crossing and (I speculate) they had a "stop and proceed" warrant issued. 2 freights slowed to a crawl and stopped before eventually proceeding. The only problem was that this fouled at least 6 grade crossings for about 15-20 minutes. I just shook my head as I knew that there were a LOT of very pissed drivers out there. This also caused a couple of commuter trains to be very late (more pissed people).
The good news from all of this is that the economy must be doing pretty well. I have also seen unit trains of 100+ cars carrying oil and grain. I think Warren Buffet was one smart cookie buying BNSF a few years ago. Since he is the sole shareholder (so to speak) he can make the investment into the infrastructure that will continue to move more and more freight over time (as opposed to the other rail lines that have to show more and more profits even at the expense of increased capital spending).