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MCGG On the Right Track Unloading the Longest Train in US History

by Sterling Allen

for Agri-Times NW

Morrow County Grain Growers announced that a record 140 unit/car train (8500ft / 1.6 miles long), the largest train in U.S. history, was unloaded at their Boardman terminal. The Canadian Pacific/Kansas City Southern (CPKC) delivered the rail cars. CPKC has been a leader in transitioning to an 8500-foot high efficiency product (HEP) train model for grain. The mega unit trains are becoming common in Canada. This train carried 560,000 bushels of corn (15,700 ton).The grain originated from Farmers Elevator Company, Honeyford, N.D. The longer trains boost grain-hauling efficiency by as much as 30% from the standard 105 unit/car trains..

Who would have imagined 30 plus years ago that North Dakota would be growing that many acres of corn? North Dakota was primarily a wheat growing state.  Spring wheat averaged 58 bu/acre in Grand Forks county. New improved varieties of short season corn has expanded production areas across the northern U.S. and  the profitability of corn has exceeded wheat production. Honeyford located in the Northeast quarter of North Dakota, 80 miles south of Canada, and receives about 22 inches of rain annually.  2022 corn harvest data shows average corn yields in Grand Forks county were 152 bu/acre. Farmers Elevator was offering a cash price of $4.19 per/bushel today as compared to Chicago cash price of $4.65 per/bushel.

Kevin Gray, MCGG General Manager, was excited to share insight on the record unit train. The unit train must be unloaded within 15 hours of delivery. There is a deficit of grain corn availability in the PNW after the local fall harvest. The corn unit trains allow MCGG to have a consistent supply of grain corn for buyers throughout the PNW. The unit train converts to 560 semi-truck loads of corn to be delivered to end users.

Access to the Columbia River has allowed MCGG the flexibility to trans-load commodities from rail to barges. There are occasions when export elevators request grains be shipped via barge instead of by train. MCGG has trans-loaded wheat and soybeans from trains to river barges the last couple of years. When the hurricanes shut down the New Orleans ports MCGG handled hard spring wheat and soybeans through the barge system to river export elevators.

Gray shared that MCGG has built two new bins, for a total of 8 bins at their Boardman facility, that provides storage capacity to inventory commodities. Their storage capacity totals 2.2 million bushels.

The Port of Morrow leaders and MCGG Board of Directors should be commended for having the foresight to invest in the unit train infrastructure that allows commodities to be shipped efficiently by  unit trains.


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