100th Shuttle Train Comes To Syracuse

Aug 11, 2020

Frontier Cooperative saw its 100th shuttle train come through the Syracuse Shuttle Facility last week, marking several milestones since the facility’s first train in April 2017. In that time, nearly 45 million bushels of corn has passed through the Syracuse Frontier facility.
Talks of the project started back in 2015, and almost two years later, the construction was completed in partnership with Union Pacific (UP) and Omaha Public Power District (OPPD).
“It’s been a great partnership, and we’re hoping to gain other partners with future economic development,” says Brook Aken, economic development manager for OPPD.
On Thursday when the 100th train was being loaded, representatives from UP, OPPD, and Syracuse Chamber of Commerce were there to witness and celebrate the milestone.
“Union Pacific and Frontier Cooperative have enjoyed a great relationship for many years. The addition of the Syracuse facility has allowed our business relationship to grow and provides significant value for both entities. One hundred trains is a terrific milestone, and we congratulate Frontier Cooperative on the success of the facility,” says Bruce Kroese, Assistant Vice President - Grain & Grain Products, Union Pacific.
Frontier Coop CEO Jeremy Wilhelm explains how great it is to see something go from concept to implementation that has had such a positive impact on the local community.
“This impact will be here for 40 to 50 years down the road for the next generation(s) to enjoy, says Wilhelm.”
Currently, the Frontier Syracuse facility holds 3 million bushels of grains storage, with an additional 1 million bushels of storage being added this fall, which will increase total storage to 4 million bushels.
Frontier operates four other train loader facilities across the company, but none that are as shiny and new as the Syracuse one. Prior to the Syracuse rail shuttle facility being built, the bushels were trucked and absorbed elsewhere, such as local ethanol plants and processing plants. Adding the Syracuse facility created more options and opened up more opportunities to export to new markets.
According to Frontier Coop CEO Jeremy Wilhelm, the Syracuse facility helps move large grain volumes across the country, but most of the grain that leaves Syracuse is shipped to the West Coast, primarily California, and some to Mexico.
Shuttle trains are typically 110-car units, which hold approximately 440,000 bushels of corn. To break that down even further, that’s about 4,000bu per car, which equals about four semi-loads per car. With the speed and efficiency of the Syracuse rail facility, it takes about four minutes to load one train car. The facility at Syracuse features two 20,000bu/hour legs and two high-capacity dumping pits, which keeps the process flowing smoothly.
Frontier Coop typically has the logistics schedule of the trains about five to seven days in advance. A train can be tracked online to get a good idea of its status, and when it will arrive. The UP requires shippers to load trains in 15 hours or less. That being said, the staff at the Syracuse rail facility, or any of the company’s shuttle loading facilities, must run a pretty tight ship—or in this case—train.
“It doesn’t matter when the train comes in. When it gets here, your time starts,” says Wilhelm.
This particular train arrived around 9pm on Wednesday evening, with crews standing by to start the process. It takes about seven to eight staff members to effectively and efficiently load the train and send it back down the tracks—one to open lids, one to shut lids and place seals, one locomotive operator (who must be certified), one to sample and grade the grain, one to load the grain, and one or two staff members rotating to provide relief among the crew. In addition, the USDA federal grain inspection team works alongside the Frontier staff to grade and inspect the grain, certifying the quality of grain in each train car.
“We can’t load until USDA arrives,” says Wilhelm.
The Syracuse facility will receive a GPS ping when the approaching train is in Nebraska City 20 miles away, letting the staff know it’s almost go-time.
“A train that shows up at 8am on a Tuesday is a pretty perfect scenario, but it doesn’t happen that way very often,” says Wilhelm.
In addition to the rail facility, just down the road in Syracuse is one of Frontier’s two dry fertilizer plants. In 2.5 years of operation, 83,000 tons of fertilizer went through the Syracuse plant.
Overall, Frontier Cooperative is very pleased about the success of the Syracuse facility and the opportunities that it has opened up for the community, company, and the agricultural industry.
“Not only has this facility provided good jobs for the community of Syracuse, it has opened up access to markets that the surrounding area did not have before,” Wilhelm says. “Which also means a more competitive basis for our farmers to enjoy for many years to come.”
About Frontier Cooperative
Frontier Cooperative is a full-service, member-owned cooperative operating approximately 50 locations throughout east and southeast Nebraska. Frontier offers products and services in Grain, Agronomy, Feed and Energy and has been proudly serving local producers for over 100 years.

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