UP opens the Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp

Santa Theresa Intermodal Ramp commemorative coin
Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp commemorative coin

Regular readers know my rail interests are focused on a point almost one hundred years ago, but the other day I witnessed a ceremony opening a modern rail facility. I drove about ten miles west of El Paso to the far western edge of Santa Teresa, New Mexico on May 28th. What was once a bare spot in the desert is now the $400 million dollar Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp rail facility. Click on any image here to review a large size.


Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp site map.

Union Pacific completed this huge project a year ahead of schedule and they are already reaping the benefits. The Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp is a two fold facility at this time; a mainline refueling stop and an inbound/outbound intermodal container yard. The location is just a few miles from the Port of Santa Teresa international crossing. Large factories and distribution centers are on both sides of the border here. Trucks will be used to move the intermodal containers to local destinations. There is hope that Mexico will eventually extend their rail system to the Santa Theresa border for a rail link with this new facility. Interchange at the El Paso/Juarez points are hampered by poor track conditions and many at grade road crossings in Mexico. I believe Juarez city leaders have restricted long train movements to the hours when auto traffic is light.

Traditional golden spikes set up for the dignitaries to drive home.

The 2,200 acre Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp opened on April 1st and is already exceeding projections. It replaces an aging facility in El Paso at the old Southern Pacific Alfalfa Yard, which was built just after World War Two. The annual container lifts at Alfalfa Yard were maxed out at 144,000. I overheard UP Officials discussing that the new facility will exceed 200,000 lifts by the end of this year. The new facility has room to expand and there is a possible 500,000 lift target for 2020. A lift is the placement of a container on or off of a train.

The dignitary line up under the big tent.

There were a handful of politicians and dignitaries on hand for this special event; New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Chihuahua Mexico Governor Cesar Duarte, UP Chairman and CEO Jack Koraleski, Senator Tom Udall, among others. Bob Turner, the Senior VP of UP Corporate Relations, kept the pace flowing from speaker to speaker. I estimate about 600-700 people attended this public opening. Many took a quick tour on board a bus to get a better look at the facility. We rolled down the 1.5 mile ramp where intermodal containers are loaded, unloaded, and stored. I snapped a couple of photos from the bus, but the window sunscreen prevented crisp photos.

While this is a UP facility, a private contractor, In-Terminal Services Technologies and Logistics, LLC (ITS), does most of the heavy lifting. Here’s the ITS loco that pulls and spots strings of intermodal cars in the loading ramp area.

The switcher ITS uses to position containers for loading and unloading.

While this is all about a modern rail facility, I know most hobbyists have an interest in today’s rails. The Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp replaces some of El Paso rail infrastructure that was built over 100 years ago. Refueling had been done by tank trucks in the downtown yard and could take 60-90 minutes. The new Santa Teresa fueling facility reduces this time to 30 minutes.

Since I had the camera along, I thought I’d do a little rail fanning on the way back home. I found a nice photo spot in Sunland Park and captured a westbound working up the grade towards the new Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp.

A westbound train headed towards the new Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp.

After snapping a few pics, I turned and walked back towards my car. Of course, an eastbound appeared with two Southern Pacific units in the consist. I hastily snapped a few shots of this surprise train, then was even more surprised at a string of military vehicles loaded on flat cars.

The eastbound train with diesels lettered for the Southern Pacific.
A string of military vehicles headed east.

I hustled back towards El Paso with a slim hope of catching this eastbound train on the Rio Grande bridge. It was not looking very good until the train slowed down considerably for the bridge crossing. I beat the train to the bridge and even had a couple of minutes to find a decent spot to take some photos.

The eastbound train captured crossing the Rio Grande bridge.
The eastbound train captured crossing the Rio Grande bridge.
Military vehicles headed east across the Rio Grande bridge.

And to think all of this happened before Noon! I hope you enjoyed this side trip into modern rail action. Living here in El Paso, within sight of the UP transcontinental line, a day does not pass without seeing a train. Often, I will see four or five trains in an hour, pulled not only by UP and SP diesels, but also locomotives lettered for CSX, NS, KCS, Ferromex, Canadian Pacific, and more.

New posts are brewing that will bring the blog focus back to model railroading. Check back soon for another update! Your questions and comments can be posted below. All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear.

4 thoughts on “UP opens the Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp”

  1. Even though contemporary railroading may lack “personality” as most of us define it, there is no denying it is dynamic and important to the nation. Someone said a few years ago to the effect, “if we didn’t have railroads, we would have to invent them!”. Long live UP!

  2. Even modern stuff is interesting – but isn’t it frustrating how the sun always seems to be on the wrong side of the train?

    1. Don’t you know it, Gerhard! The summer daylight here in El Paso is often from a steep angle and there are few cloudy days so you just have to capture the moment when you have that chance. – Eric

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