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ABOVE: Union Pacific 8330 west is departing the west end of Union Pacific’s Global-3 facility amidst the cornfields on November 21, 2009. The two tracks on the left are the former C&NW double track main line. The two tracks on the right are the leads to the west end of Global-3. LEFT: Modern grain elevators are a far cry from the old wooden structures of the past. Here an employee of a huge grain co-op is checking the level of corn in a huge steel storage bin through a hatch in the structure’s roof using a weighted measuring tape device.

ports was Taiwan at 39 per cent, fol- lowed by Indonesia at 13 per cent, Viet- nam at eight per cent, and Malaysia, China, and Japan all at seven per cent. Numerous other countries made up the balance in small amounts. The August 2009 figures represented about 23,000 TEU, which is down due to market and growing conditions from the previous three year August average of about 30,000. March and April of 2009 saw about 28,000 TEU of grain moving to Asia. What the figures mean is a lot of grain is moving in containers these days with the potential for much more.

Grain In a Box Just how is a container prepared for

grain loading? Since most containers are used to ship products contained in boxes or some other form of packaging, minor damage such as small holes in

the wall of a container normally aren’t a factor. Bulk shipments made up of small things like corn kernels and round soybeans would leak out of these holes so they must be detected and blocked with plastic sheeting or card- board. The containers also must be clean and free of foreign materials such as wood and metal from shipping palettes and the like. Before the grain is loaded into the box a 2×8 foot board is fitted into a bracket in the doorway of the container and a large piece of card- board is put against it. Amazingly, this cardboard will keep the grain from spilling out the back despite the weight involved. A horizontal grain auger is then used to load the grain into the con- tainer. The preferred size of shipping con-

tainers for grain are the 20 foot size, al- though 40 foot containers are common- ly used as well; 20 footers have an advantage over 40s because of the load- ing weight and structural limitations of the latter. Forty foot containers gener- ally have a capacity of about 30 tons while 20 footers can handle 26-28 tons. However, even a 40 foot container only filled about half to two-thirds of the way with grain is better than that con- tainer traveling several thousand miles back to Asia empty in terms of revenue and energy consumption. There is huge potential for places

like the co-op to ship more grain by con- tainer. This co-op could also be a candi-

date for a shuttle train operation, unit grain trains that load at one point and unload at a single destination. There is room for a loop track for loading a shut- tle train to the south of the facility if a conveyor system were built over UP’s Geneva Subdivision and the two lead tracks at the west end of Global-3. Di- rect rail service at this elevator ended years ago but it would probably make sense to replace it. In an energy con- scious environment rail transport would also win out over the huge army of trucks taking the non containerized yearly harvest of corn and soybeans to markets.

What’s In There? It seems almost every grade school

age and younger child asks the same question when seeing a brightly colored double stacked container train. Both of my children did anyway and I’ve heard it from others. They invariably ask, “What’s in all those boxes?” My answer was, “All kinds of things like clothes, TVs, cameras, and toys that both of us like to play with!” Now the answer might have to include soybeans and corn, especially if the train is west- bound for the Pacific.

The author would like to acknowl-

edge Mike Schaller for help in provid- ing information for this article as he is involved in farming in the Rochelle, Illi- nois, area.


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