Track through Sibley well traveled, users say

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two officials with companies that use the Union Pacific Railroad line that travels through Sibley, Iowa, said they haven’t yet heard about re-routes or diverting traffic from the line.

A train de-railed on the track just south of Sibley on Sunday. As of Monday morning, several cars were still on fire. The Union Pacific company said impacted cars were carrying hydrochloric acid, potassium hydroxide and asphalt

Jeramie Weller, the general manager of Minnesota Soybean Processors (MnSP) in Brewster, Minnesota, said the majority of its soymeal “needs to go through Sibley.”

The rail line travels from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in Minnesota and passes through several towns and cities in Minnesota including Brewster and Worthington. The train passes through Sibley, Ashton and several other towns in Iowa before it links to other systems in LeMars. The line travels through Sioux City, Iowa, where it eventually reaches another UP line. The line is shown in Minnesota and Iowa Department of Transportation maps.

“It’s a main blood vessel,” Weller said of the UP railroad line. The line is busy and the schedule is “close and tight,” Weller said.

“It’s one of the major railways,” said Rob Jacobs, the chief executive officer of the Cooperative Farmers Elevator system in based in Ocheyedan, Iowa. “It’s definitely a major thoroughfare,” he said.

The rail line carries grain, ethanol, lumber and other supplies and products through the two states. But rail maps also show that the line is part of a network of rail lines that may carry freight from states beyond Minnesota and Iowa.

A Minnesota Department of Transportation railroad map. The line that passes through Sibley, Iowa, also passes through Worthington, Minnesota. Mankato is also on the line.

The Cooperative Farmers Elevator (CFE) system ships on average 22 to 24 grain trains through the line each year, Jacobs said.

“That’s just short of 10 million bushels of grain in a year’s time,” Jacobs said.

A grain train is usually 110 cars, he said. The system has sites in several towns including Sibley and Ashton, which is about seven miles south of Sibley and at least 12 other sites.

Now, elevators such as CFE and processors such as MnSP are waiting to hear about any re-routes or changes from UP.

“We don’t know; we are waiting to hear,” Jacobs said.

MnSP has more than 200 empty rail cars on its own track that can be used for temporary storage of soybean meal, Weller said.

“We can make it a week, worst case scenario,” Weller said.

If clean up and repair take longer than a week and no temporary rail route is available, the soybean processor may need to reduce production or do a temporary shutdown, Weller said.

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