By Tim Leeds
A new locomotive is operating at a new elevator system in Havre.
The locomotive is not really new, but actually a refurbished 1952 model, and the new facility is the high-speed grain loading shuttle at the Archer Daniels Midland and Cenex Harvest States joint elevator. Tuesday was the first day it was used.
"It's kind of a cool old thing," ADM-CHS joint venture grain merchandiser Bob Way said about the locomotive. "It's got a lot of miles on it, it's probably been around the world a couple of times. It works really good for what we're doing but I wouldn't take it to Seattle."
Way said the locomotive is used to move Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway freight cars that have been left to be loaded at the elevator. The locomotive moves the cars 20 or 30 at a time to the loading facility on a new track between the two elevators. There the high-speed system loads the cars, and the locomotive pushes them back to be reattached to other loaded cars.
ADM and CHS announced the joint venture to build the high-speed shuttle in May. Way said this is the only joint venture in the country for the two companies, both of which have many high-speed shuttles elsewhere.
The companies finished the elevator upgrade the end of October, Way said. The upgrade included new, more powerful equipment. Way said the system has faster hydraulic gates and faster electronic weighing systems. It now uses three bins. One holds the grain and transfers it to a second, where the grain will be weighed. The grain moves to a third, which drops it into the cars. The bins are constantly being filled in succession, moving the grain much faster.
"We are twice as fast as we used to be," Way said. The time needed to fill a car has dropped from 12 minutes to six. That improves the loading speed for both the elevator and the railroad.
"BNSF becomes more efficient and we become more efficient," he said, and the savings from that can be passed on to the grain producers. Way said they will save about 5 cents a bushel.