“Creating connections to empower agriculture.” This is CHS’ purpose and a guiding principle for directing business operations. CHS Grainland made a significant investment to create connections for our area growers in 2015, when the shuttle facility opened northeast of Holyoke. Five years and 108 trains later, the shuttle gives global commodity marketing options to eastern Colorado and western Nebraska farmers.
The addition of the shuttle opened doors for different grain marketing strategies, which benefits our growers because it gives them a better basis for their crops. Utilizing rail transportation vs. semi-trucks allows grain to move quickly and travel great distances. One train loaded at the shuttle averages 435,000 bushels. This is the equivalent of 375 grain trucks! Shipping grain via rail presents a timing advantage that CHS Grainland didn’t possess prior to the shuttle.
Since the shuttle facility opened in 2015, 108 trains have been loaded as of May 13, 2020. Corn, wheat and milo have been shipped out via rail, with each commodity destined for various locations. Corn trains typically head into Mexico or to the Gulf of Mexico. Occasionally corn will head to California ethanol plants or Texas feedlots. Wheat can go to either the Pacific Northwest (PNW) or the Gulf of Mexico to be exported, or it will go to domestic mills to be made into flour. Milo goes to the PNW or the gulf to be exported overseas.
Loading one train takes anywhere from six and a half to eight hours. Once the railroad delivers the train to the shuttle, CHS employees take over the controls and have 15 hours to get it loaded. Usually a team of seven employees is used to load a train, which has an average of 115 rail cars. One employee operates the train locomotives. Three employees open and close the individual railcar lids and put seals on. The seals are put in place for tracking purposes and show that the contents of the car have not been tampered with prior to arrival at the final destination. One employee ensures bottom gates do not leak and hoists new seals up to employees on top of the car. One employee controls the flow of grain into the railcars and coordinates the locomotive movements. Another employee will set and release individual car brakes to assist in the movement of the train, checks the elevator facility as the grain is loaded, and takes care of any elevator issues that arise.
While the train is being loaded, small samples of grain are automatically sent down to a lab staffed by third party USDA certified grain grading individuals who ensure that the grain going into the cars meets certain specifications set forth via the buyers. These will be the official grades used in the sales transaction of the grain.
CHS Grainland is one of four grain elevators in the region that have shuttle capacities and the ability to ship large quantities of grain out via rail. The facility has succeeded in creating connections and opening new market opportunities for our local growers.