Saturday, August 20, 2011

Heading Home

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!


dorcheat said...

I enjoyed looking at the bottom pic of the westbound rounding the bend at Detroit Lakes in front of Big Detroit Lake.

One can still see the retaining wall for the old Ice House spur track that ran down to where the Holiday Inn is now located. Indeed, the Holiday Inn named their restaurant, the Ice House Restaurant in honor of the old Detroit Ice Company.

The BN finally abandoned the spur switch and track sometime during 1983 or 1984. I am little hazy on those dates, however. This spur track served the Detroit Ice Company that cut huge ice blocks from Big Detroit Lake and packed them in sawdust while the old Northern Pacific RR shipped them back in the days before refrigeration.

Believe it or not, but this 44 year "old timer" also remembers another spur track that branched across highway 10 starting from just east of where the new Roosevelt Avenue train overpass is located and then curved along the Pelican River to where Hedahl's Auto Parts is located. The BN abandoned this spur track sometime I think in late 1986 or 1987 when I was away at college.

dorcheat said...

While I am at it, it sure would be nice to see some action at Richards Spur. Richards Spur leads to a gravel and aggregate operation that can viewed from what I call Monson Lake Road (Becker County 6) when your drive south a few miles down U.S. 59 and turn right at the stoplight.

Drive west about 2.5 miles and one can see the gravel pits on the right side of the road with a small locomotive parked at the end of the spur track. I always wondered how many car loads of gravel and aggregate are shipped each year onto the BNSF.

Allen said...

In May I was lucky enough to catch a unit train leaving Warren. Grandma and I chased it for a bit but it was cloudy and getting dark and not worth taking pictures.

Does anyone happen to know if the NPR ever get any of that traffic?

Jim said...

Guys, sorry it took so long to respond. dorcheat, love the stories about DL in the BN days. As far as Richards Spur, I would love to catch a train there too. As many times as I have been by there I have never seen a train using that line. I've seen the engine at Strata but haven't been able to get a good shot of it.

Allen, as far as I know most of the traffic off the loop in Warren does go on the NPR. I have seen NPR power on a train sitting on the loop. BNSF does have access as well.