Lines of black-colored tank cars wait in a rail-loading facility in New Town.
There, semis loaded with Bakken crude from the oil patch in western North Dakota arrive, where the oil goes into shipper-owned tank cars and Canadian Pacific Railway transports them.
"They come out of the rail-loading facility in 80-car chunks," explained Will Wangerin, superintendent of CP's Harvey Division. "But we run 104-car trains. Usually we'll pull them out and we'll stage them," he said.
Eloise Ogden/MDN • Semis loaded with crude oil come to this rail-loading facility in New Town where the crude is pumped from the trucks into shipper-owned tank cars which Canadian Pacific Railway transports.
He said the trucks loaded with crude oil pull up alongside the rail cars on the tracks. "They load them right from the truck and pump them into the tank cars," he explained.
CP now has up to 40 rail-loading facilities across its network in the U.S. and Canada. That number includes a recently opened rail-loading facility in Estevan, Sask. Bakken oil from Saskatchewan is moved through the U.S. Midwest, including North Dakota, U.S. West Coast and eastern Canada to reach refineries in Canada and the United States.
Oil development in western North Dakota, along with other products, is keeping the Canadian Pacific Railway extremely busy.
"It is a great time to be in the business there," said Mike LoVecchio, with CP Media Relations in Minneapolis, during a recent interview in Minot.
Trains that come out of the rail-loading facility in New Town go to Drake and then generally go through Harvey. Another rail-loading facility just east of New Town near Van Hook is being built on CP property by a private company.
New Town to Drake is CP's New Town Subdivision. Most trains with the Bakken oil are heading to the U.S. Gulf Coast with some traveling to the northeast. Each tank car holds about 650 barrels of crude oil.
LoVecchio said the Harvey Divison is an important region for CP. It's mainline goes through there, providing Midwest shippers of Bakken oil and other products direct access to distribution points through Minneapolis and Chicago, as well as to West Coast ports.
Wangerin said the corridor from Portal to Harvey, called the Portal Subdivision, is an area generating a lot of business. "Every spot, every town along this route pretty much has some type of industry work in it or some type of function to it," he said, adding, "There's never a dull moment working this territory."
This past year, flooding severely impacted Canadian Pacific Railway's service, LoVecchio said.
"Since the start of September we're back to a normal operation. But when you have as we experienced, it severely tests the patience of your customers. You've really got to work that much harder to earn their confidence back," LoVecchio said.
At Minot, CP was not in business for 22 days because of the Souris River flood, Wangerin said. He said more than 10 miles of track was under water.
Before that, he said they had structural issues with a hill sliding at Kenmare. "We've had some pretty significant outages on our main line here," Wangerin said..
The east end of the Minot CP yard by the U.S. Highway 2 bridge had flooding. A new yard office building was completed only about four days before the flood hit Minot, but the water didn't get that high so it there was no damage, Wangerin said.
A mobile home was brought into the CP yard for temporary housing for external work crews and track work. "With the housing shortage in Minot, you can't get a motel room unless booked well in advance ," Wangerin said.
Wangerin said they've been short on people, just like other businesses in the area are experiencing. "We've been hiring like crazy," he said.
LoVecchio said 10 percent of CP's U.S. employee base is drawn from the military. He said there's a tremendous relationship existing between the military and the railroads.
He said the job skills and transition to civilian life are very similar. "The railroading job is a good job. It pays well, comes with a great pension full benefits and enables you to provide for your family in a way that many jobs do not."
"The railroad it's a lifestyle, it's not just a job," Wangerin said. "It's a good job, it provides for your family but it's odd hours, weekends and holidays. Its provided well for my family and yes, I've missed some things for my family but I've also got to be there for my family," he said.
"What I like about the railroad is it's different every day. Every day I come to work it's different challenges, different things no matter what position I've held in this company between a switchman, conductor, yardmaster, trainmaster to supervisor of operations."
Wangerin also is in charge of orchestrating the CP Holiday Train that goes through North Dakota each December.
At Harvey, Wangerin said they have added another 10,000 feet of track to the Harvey yard and extended the tracks in Flaxton.
"We're doing a lot of track expansion and capital expenditure improvements in this area the most I've ever seen this company do and a lot more to come just to handle the new business. The infrastructure just updating it to handle the new business. It's unbelievable the new business opportunities that are out here," Wangerin said.
CP is investing more than $90 million to enhance capacity on its U.S. main line south of Saskatchewan, through North Dakota and into Minnesota to handle anticipated increased Bakken crude shipments. Upgrading tracks and sidings is among the work, CP officials said.
North Dakota is a very good place to do business now, LoVecchio said, adding, "It's incredible."