The last couple of posts on this blog have hinted at a new customer on the BNSF Noyes Sub. Well, here's a look at what is under construction as we speak-something called Northstar Agri-Industries:
As the link explains, this new facility will have the capacity to process 345,000 tons of canola per year. Word on the street in the area says that the plant will be able to empty both 300,000 bushel bins every week when operating at full capacity. This is a big plant, which is currently keeping 150 construction workers busy and promises 50 permanent jobs for far-northwest Minnesota. All of which is nice, but the really important part of the story for this blog is the rail business that will be generated. I don't know the exact composition of the traffic but any plant that is spending the money to install a loop track has to anticipate significant volumes moving by rail.
This story actually begins on Monday, when my first indication of anything unusual in the area was the sighting of a pair of RJ Corman sidebooms passing through Argyle headed north. In fact, this was so unusual it necessitated a phone call to MN Chris, to see if there had been a derailment in the area. With no news of any such event, the mystery deepened. After a couple of hours, though, I received word that the equipment had turned into the canola plant construction site. Leaving for Hallock in mid-afternoon, I spotted a pre-built switch in a gondola sitting in the siding at Kennedy. Things started to come together. I bet they are going to install the switch for the canola plant!
Fast forward to Friday, when I again passed the site headed south, and sure enough the Corman cats and some BNSF equipment, including a couple of ballast cars, were on site. The location of the switch is way out in the middle of a field so it was impossible to get very close for a photo, but I got this:
Since I was stopped I decided to grab a shot of the construction site as well, shown here. The plant is well along and it will be exciting to see them roll into action. FYI, four wheel drive John Deere seen at the right edge of the frame is working on site prep for the loop track. Some of the loop already has a sub-grade of what looks like gravel installed, while the remainder is being graded. Finally I knew where all the ties I had seen stacked in Hallock were going. There is also a big stack of stick rail along the tracks in town, that has been there for a couple of months at least, which must also be canola-plant bound.
Since I'm going on about this plant, and managed to connect this stop to work, I'll share a photo of something other than a train. The pipelines that create my day job are usually buried, but the gas line serving this plant is under construction, and offered up a photo op during the stop. If you've ever wondered what butt fused 8" HDPE looks like, here's your answer. Someone's got some backhoe work ahead of them.
After lunch and an afternoon's work in Stephen, it was back on the road for Wadena. I believe I neglected to mention the unit train sitting on the loop at Argyle Monday, but it was still there with no power anywhere to be seen. I was wishing some GE's had shown up to take it east (south) along with me, but no such luck.
However, somewhere just south of Warren those GE's did show up. A pair of Dash 9's appeared, running light and headed toward Argyle. I've no way of knowing whether that was where they were going, but it seemed like the sensible destination to me. The crew noted a lone railfan with some bell and horn action as they passed by.
Being as how it is harvest season, and I've already deviated from the pure rail theme of this blog in this post, here's a second non-rail shot. Around Callaway a farmer was working at getting the wheat crop off and it was such a lovely scene it seemed like a photo was required. And who knows, the bounty of this field may well end up at the Callaway elevator and start toward its final destination on a CP train.
Finally, my scanner tipped me off to a Staples Sub westbound as I arrived in DL. The detector at MP 203 announced the imminent arrival of a train, so I decided to shoot him. Here, he's rolling into town, just across the highway from Lake Detroit and the Holiday Inn.
That's the story of my trip home from far NW MN. As is so common, the lack of train volume was balanced by interesting sightings. Always a great area to go and look for trains!