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Shuttle loader takes Grainland to next level PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Project plans have come full circle as Grainland Co-op’s shuttle loader and circle track project has begun initial fill processes, with its first loads scheduled for early next year.

The multi-million-dollar project takes Grainland, a locally controlled retail division of CHS Inc., to the next level, according to general manager Rick Unrein.

“It gives us a terminal elevator presence in Phillips County that hopefully will return many benefits to our stockholders and the county for many years to come,” said Unrein.

Brand-new cement rail ties make up nearly 8,000 feet of track circling around Grainland Co-op’s multi-million-dollar shuttle loader project northeast of Holyoke. Eight concrete silos provide nearly 1.4 million bushels of grain storage, and 110-car shuttle trains can utilize the circle track as they are loaded up with commodities.   

—Enterprise photo

The project, located just northeast of Holyoke off Highway 23 and County Road 41, allows Grainland to ship commodities using a 110-car shuttle train.

Unrein said it should give Grainland a competitive advantage when rail freight is the market for the grain.

Previously, if Grainland wanted to ship by rail, they had to co-load trains in more than one location. The shuttle loader and circle track will bring the price down as the 110-car train can all be loaded at the same time.

Grainland is finalizing contracts and agreements with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Nebraska, Kansas Colorado Railway.

According to the inspector, the nearly 8,000 feet of track with brand-new cement rail ties is the best circle track in the world.

It runs in a circle next to eight concrete silos, which gives Grainland almost 1.4 million bushels of additional storage.

The view from the top of the facility shows the circle made by the railroad track, which allows trains to load all 110 cars at the same time.  

—Enterprise photo

Unrein explained in-bound grain can be taken in at 60,000 bushels per hour and out-bound grain can be loaded out at 80,000 bushels per hour. However, he said they would probably be running them at 20,000 bushels per hour below the max speed.

“The whole system is built for speed,” he said, noting everything from radio-frequency identification cards and scale placement to pit sizes and capacity make it very efficient.

A large area allows two lines of trucks to wait to unload grain. The farmers scan RFID cards to check in and check out — a new technology that automatically registers in a computer which farmer and which field the load came from.

Two stalls allow for two trucks to unload at the same time, and the facility is unique because the area is big enough for both hoppers under the truck to unload without having to move the truck forward.

The elevator system on one side of the 140-foot-tall silos takes the grain up and distributes it to one of the eight sections, and another system on the opposite side takes the grain to an unloading station over the rail cars.

Unrein stressed the facility is state of the art, safe, environmentally friendly and run completely by computers. A special cleaning system also keeps it relatively dust-free.

Final project details at the new facility include planting grass and putting in a well.

At least two new Grainland employees are needed at the shuttle loader.

Two trucks can unload grain side by side at the new Grainland facility.  

—Enterprise photo

At the new shuttle loader project, Grainland employee John Sherlock unloads wheat from both hoppers without having to pull the truck forward.  

—Enterprise photo

“We are so excited,” said Unrein of the new facility. The project has been in the works a long time and is finally coming to completion.

The first day of actual dirt work was Feb. 5, 2013. Grainland expected the terminal/operations system to be done in time for wheat harvest this year, but some structural issues with the bins required them to put in some liners.

Unrein said it wasn’t all bad to push back the opening date because it will be good to test the system before the busy harvest time.

The silos began filling with wheat the last week in September. The facility had to fill 25 percent and then wait seven days before filling another 25 percent. Seven more days passed, and they are currently working on the third quarter of wheat to fill the silos.

When that is complete, they must wait 28 days before filling the final 25 percent, and after that, 28 more days before they will be able to unload.

Unrein said Grainland plans to unload four trains, one each month in February, March, April and May of 2015.

Once the initial fill process is complete, Grainland will be accepting wheat from farmers as needed.

The highest percent of wheat trains will go to the Gulf, said Unrein. If corn trains ever come into play in the future, they can be either exported overseas or used domestically in the U.S.

Unrein said the use of the railroad to ship commodities all depends on whether the co-op would get a better price for rail or for truck. He said right now the railroad cars are in high demand, so down the road when the railroad gears up with more staff and more rail cars to handle the demand, Grainland will be in good shape.

Trains will pull under this system for grain to be easily unloaded into the 110 cars of a shuttle train.  

—Enterprise photo

Grainland employee John Sherlock shows how the shuttle loader project is run completely by computers.

—Enterprise photo

By installing a circle track, Unrein said, it has opened the door for other companies to use it. He has already heard some interest from wind generation and oil companies.

Grain is Grainland’s priority, he said, but they are always looking for additional ways to provide some income.

Looking at the idea of an industrial park, Unrein said there is a possibility for other companies to use Grainland land near the circle track or for the companies to buy land adjacent to it.

There is also the possibility that Grainland could install a dry fertilizer hub to utilize the shuttle loader facility, as well.

“We are very pleased we are well ahead of budget on the project,” said Unrein. “We should know a final number in December.”

Starting with an $18 million budget, Unrein said this is probably the biggest project in the history of Phillips County.

“It’s something we can be proud of for a long time.”

Unrein is very excited to have an open house to show off the new facility around May of next year.

Sitting atop the 140-foot-tall concrete silos, the system at left brings up the grain from the unloading station and distributes it toward the right into one of the eight silos.  

—Enterprise photo

Holyoke Enterprise October 30, 2014