One mighty big grain train rolls out of Alberta

With nearly 15,000 tonnes of grain on board, this train was like nothing seen before

Big is better — and faster is better yet — at Paterson Grain’s Foothills Terminal at Bowden. The facility recently loaded the single largest grain train ever seen in Alberta. The train had 147 new high-capacity hopper cars while the Bowden terminal is one of a growing number of facilities with new loop-track/power-on setups.
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In the years ahead, you may find yourself stuck at a rail crossing a little longer as a grain train rumbles by.

And you might want to use that extra time to say thanks for modern technology.

Paterson Grain recently set a new record when it loaded 147 new high-capacity hopper cars with a whopping 14,821 tonnes at its Foothills Terminal at Bowden.

“This train was the single largest grain train ever loaded in the province of Alberta by CP,” parent company Paterson GlobalFoods said in a news release.

You might call this new type of grain train really, really big — but the formal name is High Efficiency Product (HEP) train. At 8,500 feet (about 1.6 miles) long, the trains are 20 per cent longer than the ones that CP traditionally ran.

And the jump in volume is even more impressive — just over 40 per cent more than the old standard of about 10,500 tonnes on a train.

But it’s not just the rolling stock that’s changed.

Paterson’s Bowden facility is one of a growing number of terminals on the Prairies with a loop-track/power-on setup. As the name suggests, trains circle in a loop. Unlike a conventional elevator, the railway staff leaves the locomotive running (with a crew from the elevator operating it) instead of decoupling the locomotive (which eliminates the time-consuming task of powering up the air brakes later on).

“CP’s 8,500-foot High Efficiency Product train is the grain train model of the future, and is driving needed capacity for the entire grain supply chain,” said Joan Hardy, CP’s vice-president of grain and fertilizers.

In an interview a year ago, Hardy said “we could see a 90-million-tonne crop 15 years from now. That’s about 25 million tonnes more than we’ve seen over the last four years.”

CP is spending $500 million to buy 5,900 of the high-capacity grain cars over the next few years.

The record-setting Paterson-loaded train travelled to the Alliance Grain Terminal in Vancouver in under four days, where the cars were unloaded and turned back to the country.

“Paterson has invested heavily in building highly efficient loop-track facilities in the Prairies, as well as at port, where a significant investment to Alliance Grain Terminal Ltd. was recently completed,” said Andrew Paterson, president and CEO of Paterson GlobalFoods.

“CP has invested in higher-capacity rail cars, locomotives and track infrastructure. Paterson and CP’s investment, once fully realized, will help to alleviate bottlenecks within the existing supply chain and enable incremental volume to be moved from origin to destination, benefiting our customers, the Canadian economy and the environment.”

About the author


Glenn Cheater

Glenn Cheater is a veteran journalist who has covered agriculture for more than two decades. His mission is to showcase the ideas, passions, and stories of Alberta farmers and ranchers.



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