Mark Yates, plant manager for Westar Energy Inc.'s Lawrence Energy Center, watches as train cars full of coal are unloaded. Delays and troubles along railroad lines between Lawrence and Wyoming have caused the center's stockpile of coal to wane, causing fears that alternative fuels and other costlier options might be needed to generate electricity.
A Westar locomotive pulls a 135-car train hauling about 15,700 tons of coal past the Santa Fe depot in East Lawrence. The train travels from the Arch Coal Inc.'s Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming. The Lawrence center receives about 17 trains a month for the city's electricity needs.
The Lawrence Energy Center coal burning plant is serviced by the Burlington-Northern/Santa Fe Railway, which hauls the coal from Wyoming. The LEC's open coal stockpile is at right. The amount of coal in the LEC stockpile can varying depending on transportation issues. Major derailments and flooding can reduce LEC coal inventories and result in reduced burn rates to accommodate a shortfall in deliveries.
A man at left covers his ears as a Westar locomotive pulling a 135-car coal train heads west to the Lawrence Energy Center on the BNSF railway near the intersection of Fifth and Tennessee streets. The train travels 814 miles from the source of the coal at Arch Coal Company's Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming. The LEC receives an average of 17 trains per month.
Using a remote-control to operate a locomotive engine, Chris Marten, fuel equipment operator at the Lawrence Energy Center, backs five train cars into position to dump their load of coal. A 135-car coal train is unloaded in less than 20 hours.