It's something that's constantly complained about on social media, the internet, at bars and restaurants around town and especially in offices as people of Fort Collins are late for work, meetings or school regularly because of them. Of course, I'm talking about the long, slow, loud trains that pass through the city.

It's been an issue forever, no matter if you live in Fort Collins now or long ago. The mere sight of the rails coming down is enough to give you anxiety, especially if you're running late.

There are actually three train lines that run through the city of Fort Collins. The Great Western line runs parallel to Riverside in a Northwest/Southeast direction, before joining up with the Union Pacific line north of town, which also runs directly north and south, parallel with Timberline, south of about Prospect on.

The line you really have an issue with, though, is the Burlington-Northern Santa Fe line, or BNSF as it's commonly referred to. This is the one that runs really slow next to College Ave., and often stops as it approaches the track switching station on the north end of town, along Vine.

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That's the real issue with the trains in Fort Collins. It's where the three train lines meet, and trains frequently switch tracks in a switching yard. Ever drive down Vine and see all those different tracks parallel to each other? That's where the stoppage happens, and sometimes the trains can be more than a couple miles long. When there's too much train traffic to the north, or while tracks are being switched, the trains slow to a crawl or stop altogether, and since they're so long they end up stopped back in town, blocking car traffic. It's a huge annoyance when that happens.

Courtesy City of Fort Collins
Courtesy City of Fort Collins
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Is it possible to avoid train delays in Fort Collins?

Not really, as train schedules are not published.The reality is if you're moving east to west in town and a train is running north and south, you're going to get stuck. Oftentimes the delay isn't actually very long, but with increased car traffic in the city, the backups that quickly occur after even just a few minutes are what ultimately make you late.

But there are a few things you can try. For example, did you know there's a Twitter account dedicated to letting you know when and where trains are moving through town? It's @NoCoTrainAlert and as you can imagine, it's pretty active.

There's also a website to report blocked crossings, when something goes haywire and needs to be addressed.

New Lemay Avenue Bridge passes over BNSF tracks at Vine

The City of Fort Collins has obviously been aware of the drama with the trains for decades and recently took some steps to improve the situation along Lemay Ave. Last year they completed a major project and opened a bridge that takes Lemay over Vine Drive and the BNSF tracks, which used to be a huge cause of delays in the area. You can check out a cool aerial video of the major upgrade below.

Frequently Asked Questions about Trains in Fort Collins

At the end of the day, the trains are a part of the city and we've got to deal with them. That being said, many still have questions, and the City of Fort Collins provides a pretty comprehensive Q&A on their website.

For example, can't the city control the train schedule? No. The city unfortunately has no jurisdiction over the trains or their schedules. In fact, railroad companies have federal government priority and always have right-of-way as they travel throughout the U.S.

What if the railroad crossing arms are stuck down but there's no train? From the City of Fort Collins: "Do not lift the railroad arms, as it is dangerous and illegal. Call the City of Fort Collins Police Department non-emergency number at 221-6540 so that the proper railroad company can be notified."

Last but not least, what can we do about this problem in the future? The city encourages residents to submit a blocked crossing report to the Federal Railroad Administration when they have issues, at fra.dot.gov/blockedcrossings/.  They are collecting data on the long trains, and the more info from Fort Collins they get, the better for us.

Additionally, our city government continues to work with elected officials in Washington on options as well.

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