The Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad is currently one of only a few
privately owned electrified railroads used specifically to haul a single
commodity. It also one of only a few railroads in the country to haul
freight by rail, electrically, at all. However, the railroad is not a
common carrier system and is owned by the Peabody Coal Company
specifically to haul coal from the Kayenta Mine near Kayenta, Arizona to the Navajo Generating Station power plant at Page. The railroad operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week using a combination
of E60C motors built by General Electric to get the job done. The
railroad is actually relatively new, having been built in the early
1970s (it officially opened in 1973) across the Navajo Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona.
A quartet of Black Mesa & Lake Powell E60C-2s led by #EA036 travel through rural Kayenta, Arizona on September 23, 2009. All of these units began their careers south of the border on the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México.
The Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad, when built, was the most highly
energized system in place at the time using catenary powered with
50,000 volts, all of which was supplied by the Page power plant.
Overall, the railroad is about 78-miles in length and really has no
stations or terminals located along its main line except for the coal mine
it serves, mostly located towards the western end of its route. It is
difficult in obtaining information about the railroad given its private
ownership and very secluded location. However, present-day operations
are believed to include three round trips per day from the mine to the
The electric motor the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad uses is a GE product that was the first new electric locomotive design built in the post-Amtrak era when the private freight railroads no longer operated passenger trains (the BM&LP's were purchased new, however, and not secondhand). This much more powerful motor was designed exclusively for passenger service and meant to replace an aging fleet of electrics that Amtrak had inherited from freight railroads. After almost 30 years of operation the E60 model was retired by Amtrak in 2003 although, aside from those used by the BM&LP, a few have been preserved today, Amtrak #603 and NJ Transit #958.
A close-up view of BM&LP E60C-2 #EA036 from the same train as pictured above. Note that the Peabody Coal Company spends little time worrying about the locomotives' liveries as most still wear either predecessor paint or a very simple scheme.
The GE E60 model, a double-ended design (although the BM&LP original
models are not this way, they have head-end cabs only), were powerful
locomotives capable of producing 6,000 horsepower and 75,000 pounds of
starting tractive effort (which is where its name is derived; Electric,
6,000 hp). Two versions of the E60 would ultimately be built, one
classified as an E60CP, which featured a steam generator
for older passenger equipment Amtrak operated and the E60CH, which was
equipped with the more modern head-end electric power for heat and
electricity. I am not sure how many of the Black Mesa and Lake Powell
Railroad's motors are painted in company colors but from the photos of
the line I have seen it appears that many still retain their original
However, it is said that the company has been
repainting the locomotives into Peabody's red, white, and blue livery. In any event, current reports state the company either will be or
already has retired its original E60Cs in favor of the newer E60C-2
models purchased from Mexico. Additionally, the railroad has purchased
new aluminum hoppers in recent years to keep up with demand and replace aging equipment. Below is a current roster of the Black Mesa and Lake Powell
Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad Locomotive Roster
Purchased new in the early 1970s
EA004, EA022-EA023, EA032-EA036 (Evens), EA039
Ex-Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México, EA023 is used for parts
Another view of the same train near the mine at Kayenta. Once loaded it will head back to the plant at Page.
Along with there freight motors they currently own one
diesel, a former Union Pacific U25B that has been rebuilt (I presume
that this unit is kept for either switching duties or use for anytime
the electricity is down/off-line). If you are interested in visiting the Black Mesa and Lake Powell Railroad keep in mind that the area is very
remote and unpaved roadways cannot only be very hazardous but also
located on private property. However, if you're interested in seeing
the BM&LP it's the only spot in the country where you can currently
see electrics hauling something other than passengers in this country!