Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Loading the Unit Train

Waiting patiently on a side rail track outside of a town near GriggsDakota was a long line of rail cars.
A look toward the elevator told the story.
This elevator has a contract with the railroad to ship grain in 110 car unit trains. That means they will fill 110 individual grain cars as fast as they can. The elevator has 15 hours from start to finish to load the train and send the grain down the line.
Elevators with contracts to ship grain on these trains have push and pull engines on their tracks. This is required to be sure they will be prepared to move the cars around as needed when they are loading. It appears this one is rented from Independent Locomotive Service.
There are three hoppers in each car which are apparent on the bottom of the car.
As the dark car finishes, the train pulls forward.
Once in place, the first cell in the tan car begins to fill.
The elevator contains automated equipment that allows the train to fill quickly and smoothly. 
But some jobs require the human touch. A man comes out of the door and steps onto the train.
He walks out onto the filled boxcar.
He closes the doors on the top of the car.
Elevators must have plenty of grain on hand. A reliable filling system will get the grain going in 15 hours. The efficient methods used, save time and money for the railroad. Some of that savings is passed on to the elevator which invests in efficient equipment. They can offer farmers a higher price to ensure there will be enough grain on hand to fill up the next train. Everybody wins when the system works properly. This is the first step in shipping grain to the west coast and overseas.
Interesting note:  Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad is now owned by Warren Buffett. I watched him speak to students at Columbia Business School on television. Mr. Buffett was on a panel with Bill Gates on November 12, 2009. As I understand it, he invested in the railroad because of the potential of the market with China. There will be goods coming from China and food and materials shipping to China. The railroad is a sound method of transporting these items to and from the ports. 
It is amazing to think that grain from our fields will feed people in China. The world is small and hunger is great. Times are changing, even in GriggsDakota.

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