Connection Spring 2015 - Page 19

RECAP GRAIN EXPANSION POV sees new track, locomotive I By Joe Kelley n December 2014, the Port of Victoria saw its first pipe project come through the port via the Union Pacific Railroad. Almost 300 railcars of 24” diameter pipe came through the port during the last week of December and continued every week through the first week of February. PE BEN USA was the company in charge of offloading the pipe from flat deck rail cars (approximately 90 feet in length) onto specially rigged trailers known in the industry as “swing and sway” trailers. The trailers are designed to track right behind the truck that is pulling them, so making a 90 degree turn with an over-length cargo is just as easy to do as driving a sports car. The other interesting aspect of the offload process was that the machine that was used to offload the nearly 3 miles of pipe each day was a specially designed device that used air suction to create a vacuum that would suck up the pipe into a small cradle mounted to a track excavator. The machine handled every 5,400 lbs. section of pipe (or joint) with ease —loading a truck in just 20 minutes. This was truly amazing to watch because not only did pipe have to be removed from the railcar to the truck, wooden blocks and strapping had to be laid in place with each level of pipe that raised on each trailer. To accomplish this task, the port increased the width of the road adjacent to the rail to accommodate the increase in traffic and weight of the equipment offloading the pipe. A new black top road has been built to handle the truck traffic from Devon Energy and future tenants. The road runs North from FM 1432 to the South end of the port’s track 715, which is a track that project cargo can be loaded and/or offloaded. Another road improvement project is redirecting the traffic from Fordyce Sand and Gravel from its current main entrance to a modified entrance where the truck traffic will have a better field of view of both approaching road traffic as well as rail traffic. This improvement is a joint partnership between the Port of Victoria and Fordyce Sand and Gravel. March 16th saw ground being broken on an additional 2,350 feet of track that will be added to track 716, one of the port’s current two run-a-round tracks. The additional track will enable the port to receive a complete unit train of sand of more than 100 42-footrailcars, plus accompanying horsepower. The project is expected to be completed six to eight weeks from the official start date. The increase in track will enable POV and its customers to receive a unit train in on one track, while allowing the port and Commodity Switching Company, Inc., the port’s switching company, to operate the regularly scheduled manifest service the port receives three times a week. This ability to receive unit trains was key to the Union Pacific Railroad continuing its current unit train service. Additionally, it was a key factor in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s decision to start unit train service into the Port of Victoria. The first BNSF unit train will depart Oklahoma sometime around March 18th and make its way with 100 sand cars to one of the port’s sand customers. Obviously, this track expansion puts United Ag one step closer to originating unit trains of grain to its customers. Commodity Switching Company, Inc., received its second six axle locomotive — an SD-18 built in the 1960s. The unit traces its lineage back to the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Ore Range Railroad. The unit is unique in a couple of aspects. First, the unit is a high-nose unit, a rare sight these days. Secondly, the unit (IBCX 616) has double brake shoes on every wheel, making it ideal for switching. The third unique feature of the IBCX 616 is that it has a massive six-valve air compressor, large even by today’s railroad standards. The reason for such a large compressor is the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Ore Range railroad operated trains 180 cars in length. Today, most trains are only 110 to 135 railcars in length. The various improvements that Port of Victoria and its customers have made over the past years will continue to benefit United Ag in a variety of ways. Increased rail capacity is likely to play a major role in United Ag’s success from this point forward. 19