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Oregon cooperative unloads longest grain train in US

A recent rail-to-barge expansion at Morrow County Grain Growers' Columbia River terminal near Boardman, Oregon, allowed an 8,500-foot train filled with corn to become the first large train unloaded in the U.S.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot
The 1.6-mile-long train arrived November 15 at the co-op's grain terminal along the Columbia River near Boardman with 142 cars hauling 550,000 bushels of corn.
The 1.6-mile-long train arrived November 15 at the co-op's grain terminal along the Columbia River near Boardman with 142 cars hauling 550,000 bushels of corn.
Morrow County Grain Growers

For the first time in the U.S., an 8,500-foot CPKC shuttle train was unloaded at Morrow County Grain Growers' (MCGG) grain shuttle facility near Boardman, Oregon, on November 15.

Commissioned by MCGG, the train comprised 142 cars hauling 550,000 bushels of corn for use by local livestock farmers. After loading at the Farmers Elevator Co. in Honeyford, North Dakota, the train traveled north and then west through Canada on CPKCā€™s network, then on to an interchange point with Union Pacific Railway (UP) near Eastport, Idaho. From there, UP moved the train to its destination in Boardman, Oregon.

According to a MCGG Facebook post, the train was unloaded by the co-op as one long string without having to break the train apart and build it back together.

"To give you an idea of the train's massive size, it took four high-horsepower, mainline locomotives to move these cars around on the loop track," said the company.

According to reports, workers spent about 14 hours unloading the shipment, which nearly filled one 105-foot-diameter storage bin at the facility.

It marked the first time such a large train had been unloaded anywhere in the U.S., and was made possible by a publicly funded rail-to-barge project allowing MCGG to bring in trains filled with corn and wheat from the Upper Midwest.

The latest USDA Grain Transportation Report noted that grain shuttle trains typically comprise about 110 cars and measure approximately 7,000 feet long. The longer trains, referred to as High Efficiency Product (HEP) trains, were introduced in 2018 by Canadian Pacific Railway (which merged with Kansas City Southern earlier this year to become CPKC). In addition to the Honeyford, North Dakota, elevator, seven other U.S. elevators are capable of loading a HEP train.

MCGG noted that both they and Farmers Elevator Co. have been consistently loading these trains out for the past two years. Without any destinations in the U.S. that could receive these trains, however, they have been destined for the Canadian livestock market where the CPKC 8,500-foot-sized tracks are more common. Boardman is now in position to receive these larger trains going forward, so North Dakota and Minnesota 8,500-foot rail shippers have an alternative high-speed unload destination here in the U.S. to ship their grain trains to.

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