High-Tech Railroads: Union Pacific’s Harriman Dispatching Center Guides Trains Across America
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High-Tech Railroads: Union Pacific’s Harriman Dispatching Center Guides Trains Across America

August 14, 2019

GATES: So, this stop on the factuality tour we know where coal comes from, and we know how they use it at a utility. We want to find out more about how it’s transported from one place to the other. We are here in Omaha, Nebraska, the home of Union Pacific Railroad, which was actually founded and thought of by Abraham Lincoln to start the Transcontinental Railroad right here in Omaha. So, we’re going to find out how technology has made the transportation of coal and railroads more efficient over the years. LENZEN: This is the Harriman Dispatching Center, and we dispatch, basically, our entire train operation from this location. GATES: It looks like we’re on the set of a James Bond movie where they kind of control everything and not exactly what we expected to see when we thought about railroad technology. Explain to us what’s going on out here. There is technology as far as the eye can see here in the Harriman Center, and I don’t even know where to begin to look first. LENZEN: The technology, as you can see on our dispatcher’s workstations, they have a graphical overview of their territory showing them all train and engine movements. They authorize those train and engine movements in that territory. GATES: And they’re not doing that by Morse code. They’re not sitting there tapping something out. I mean, technology and the railroad have really come a long away. I mean, as evidenced out here. LENZEN: Very much so. GATES: We’re in Omaha. So, what happens when the bad weather comes through and the power goes out? Does the place go dark? People just kind of go home for the day and say, “Maybe we’ll try it again in the morning when the power comes on,” like they would do in other parts of the country? LENZEN: No way. We’ve got continuous, uninterrupted power. We’ve got two backup generators. We also have redundant power services from two different utilities. GATES: The Harriman Center here opened in 1989. How many days off, how many times has it been closed since 1989 when you guys opened the doors here? LENZEN: I’m not aware of a single closure day. GATES: Never once have the doors been shut and people haven’t come into work? LENZEN: Not to my knowledge. GATES: Amazing. How many people are here? LENZEN: Right around 800. GATES: 800. You had said earlier that they work around the clock 24 hours a day. So, if we came in here at 4:00 in the morning, what’s it going to look like? LENZEN: It would look the same. GATES: It would look the same? LENZEN: It would look the same. Very much so. GATES: So, the trains don’t stop moving, and the people at the Harriman Center don’t stop moving them around regardless of weather, time, anything? LENZEN: That is correct. GATES: Amazing. Visit tour.americaspower.org for more information.


  • Reply sr92243 November 12, 2009 at 5:02 am

    I have met a couple that work 44 desk on the yuma and gila subdivision. DS, DJI, JBO, and DLW.

  • Reply sr92243 November 12, 2009 at 5:04 am

    I have met a couple of the dispatchers that work on 44 desk on the yuma and gila subdivisions. DLW, DS, DJI, and JBO. and JM.

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