Posted: Oct 18, 2012 6:42 AM by Angela Douglas - MTN News
Updated: Oct 18, 2012 7:08 AM
BILLINGS- The railway came to Billings back in August of 1882 and in fact, the city is named after Fred Billings, the Former President of the Northern Pacific Railway.
For more than a century trains have been rolling through the Magic City, shaping the valley and our state into what it is today.
"These rail assets are 140 to 150 years old," said Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway CEO and Chairman Matt Rose. "So there's a deep history of the railroad and the predecessor railroads."
Rose spoke Wednesday morning at Big Sky Economic Development's annual meeting in downtown Billings.
Since the end of the 19th century trains have been transporting goods and people across Montana, but the final passenger train rolled through Billings back in the 1970s. Since then, industries like coal and agriculture have ruled the rails.
But the Bakken boom has created a new demand.
"Five years ago we couldn't even spell Bakken, and now we're hauling 140 unit trains of crude to all destinations in the United States," explained Rose.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has 1,000 miles of rail line in the Williston Basin area and every single day the railroad hauls one million barrels of crude oil out of the Bakken.
BNSF is investing nearly $200 million this year on projects in North Dakota and Montana.
"Quite frankly, it's really going to help lower our dependence on foreign oil," Rose stated. "We'll be able to produce oil in this country through the shale plates and consume our oil and reduce our dependency on those imports."
Regardless of the cargo, the economy is becoming increasingly global and the railway is a crucial part in the supply chain.
"Whether it's the agricultural products that we're now shipping more and more of to Japan, Korea, China; or the coal that we're shipping out of state; or certain products we're bringing in the state, rail just really is in the sweet spot of transportation now," Rose said.
And like it has for the past 140 years, the railroad will likely carry Billings well into the future.