Everybody's (OK, almost everybody's) favorite search engine launched it's mapping service back in February. Then in April, Google added satellite imagery to the mapping service, courtesy of Keyhole, whom Google purchased in October 2004 (Am I the only one who wonders if Keyhole was named for the spy satellite? Perhaps I've read too much Clancy.). Soon after the satellite imagery was added, Google reported some enterprising British bloggers started GoogleSightseeing.com.

The idea behind GoogleSightseeing.com is to post interesting sights found on the new satellite-enhanced Google Maps service, and they have found some interesting sights. Today, they posted pictures of unit coal trains in Wyoming. According to the map, they are on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (correction, as of January 24, it's now officially BNSF) line. It's pretty cool. Each train is led by two locomotives. The northern train's end is in an area of lower-resolution imagery, and therefore, it is invisible to us. However, you can see the whole southern train including the third locomotive on the southern end. The locomotives appear to be painted in the Burlington Northern Executive green, black, and white color scheme (judging from the light colored stripe on the locomotives that doesn't look like the orange of a Heritage scheme). The post also contains a link to a picture of another unit coal train loading at a coal mine. It's very cool.

Last month, those trans-Atlantic satellite voyeurs posted links to pictures of the Union Pacific's Bailey Yard. With 315 miles (507 kilometers) of railroad track, don't count on me discussing locomotive paint schemes for these pictures. I will say that I saw what appeared to be a goodly amount of coal hoppers (northwestern part of the yard) and quite a bit of what looked like Union Pacific's Armour Yellow. Also, it's interesting to note that of the major United States railroads, only the UP is operating under it's original name (the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe was also in that class until it merged with the Burlington Northern to form the aforementioned BNSF). Again, very cool.

I can see this new Google feature being used by model railroaders to determine track layouts so they can model them. Until the resolution gets better, and there are low angle shots, it's not going to replace getting out and getting photographs of the locomotives, the railroad cars, and the structures.

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