Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Today's Train of Thought- The Farm Team, June 21st 2011

Today's train of thought brings us to America's heartland and the aptly named Farmrail shortline. With a name like Farmrail (and it's affiliate, Grainbelt) it should come as no surprise that the primary source of traffic in its 30 year history has been wheat, fertilizer, grain and feed. However, there is much more to Farmrail than moving agricultural goods.

Started in 1981 with the dissolution of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, Farmrail began operations on a pair of former Rock Island lines between Elmer, OK and Westhom, OK (running north-south) and Erick to Weatherford, OK (running east-west) with the two lines intersecting in Clinton, OK. A few years later, shortly after the Burlington Northern had acquired the St Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco), the BN decided to divest itself of the former Frisco line between Enid, OK and Fredrick, OK which roughly paralleled Farmrail's Westhom-Elmer line. Both the former Rock Island and Frisco lines actually wound up going to the state of Oklahoma, but Oklahoma named Farmrail/Grainbelt designated operators after agreeing to a long-term lease.

Of course, with the recent drought conditions throughout Western Oklahoma affecting the wheat harvest, Farmrail and Grainbelt have shown themselves to be fairly adaptable in hauling other commodities and goods. Most of the railway operates atop the Anadarko Basin, and new drilling techniques have revived activity on some of the dormant rigs in western Oklahoma. Traffic also includes crude oil, frac sand, heavy machinery, crushed stone, freight cars coming in for repairs and gypsum. In fact, with the poor growing conditions, Farmrail recently announced that this would be the second consecutive year that wheat was NOT the primary commodity handled by Farmrail/Grainbelt.

There are about 2 dozen locomotives rostered between thw two railways, just about all of them 4-axle EMD roadswitchers. During some harvest season, both railways would find themselves short on motive power and borrow locomotives from BNSF or Arkansas & Missouri. The railroad started out with rebuilt GP9s purchased secondhand from the Milwaukee Road before adding some former Illinois Central GP10s, a byproduct of IC's Paducah shops. The most recent acquisiton has been a trio or former Iowa interstate GP38ACs.

Here, railpictures.net contributor Steve Bakos caught GP10 #1981 leading Farmrail GP9 #3648 eastbound with an Altus, OK to Snyder, OK-bound mixed freight excercising trackage rights over the BNSF line through Headrick, OK towards the end of September 2010. The #1981 is painted in a special 25th anniversary scheme while it's road number reflects the year that Farmrail began operations, while the trailing unit is painted in the traditional Farmrail scheme that has adorned some of the locomotives for 30 years now.

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