North Dakota grain elevator loads longest unit train in U.S. history

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 7:26 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - On November 1, a historic event took place in northeastern North Dakota — the Farmers Elevator Company of Honeyford loaded the longest unit train in U.S. history. The train full of corn was bound for Canada.

The Honeyford grain elevator is the first United States facility to load an 8,500-foot, or 1.6 mile-long, unit train, where all cars carry the same commodity. Kevin Peach, the manager of the elevator, says this milestone keeps costs to farmers down due to increased efficiency.

“If you can pull 142, then you’re pulling the other 30 cars for free,” said Peach.

When Kevin started in the railroad business in the early 80s, trains were only ten cars long. As technology has progressed, they’ve grown from ten to the now-standard 110 cars, and it appears soon to be 142. His partners in the railroad business say it breaks down to simple economics.

“It’s gotta be efficient both ways; it’s gotta be efficient for the railroad and it’s gotta be efficient for the elevator as well too. So that’s kind of the partnership we’re doing to work some of these things out,” said Jesse Chalich, president of Northern Plains Railroad.

142 cars has been standard in Canada for a while, and industry experts think the railroads in the U.S. will follow suit in the future.

“If history repeats itself, the bigger the better. The longer trains are going to be happening. I do see more of this, yes,” said Chalich.

The move was made possible by infrastructure improvements.

“Power of the engine, quality of the track. Today’s track is way heavier track. And the horsepower and pull power (of the engines) is just so much more,” said Peach.

The longer trains boosts grain-hauling efficiency by as much as 44%.

The biggest barrier elevators face when it comes to loading 8,500-foot trains? Rail space. The Honeyford grain elevator is specially equipped to load the long trains because they’ve invested in extra rail on either side.

Copyright 2021 KFYR. All rights reserved.