Osnabrock Farmers Cooperative Elevator—Nekoma Station
A fire in the middle of harvest might put some country elevators out of business, but not at Nekoma in northeastern North Dakota. The 50-year-old wooden house burned to the ground on Aug. 20, 2008. The next day, employees were dumping trucks again at the concrete house adjacent to the original elevator, keeping the harvest flow going. The concrete house had been built in 2003, not long after the Nekoma elevator was bought by the Osnabrock Farmers Cooperative Elevator. Nekoma is served by Northern Plains Railroad and Osnabrock, about 10 miles to the northeast, is served by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Today, the Nekoma station is busier than ever. A second set of concrete bins was built where the original wooden house had stood and by fall, 2009, the new bins, new scale house and office, built a few hundred yards away from the grain storage were in service, along with a high speed dryer. By May 2000, new grain cleaning equipment was in place, completing the rebuilding project. Total capacity was expanded by 100,000 bushels to 550,000 bushels. The dryer can handle 5,000 bushels per hour, the cleaner 10,000 bushels per hour and the two high speed legs, 20,000 bushels per hour, complete with computerized controls for bin and leg selection.
“The farmers like it,” says Josh Schaefer, station manager. They can pull up to the scale, have their loads automatically probed, drive over to the truck dump, unload and return to the scale in a matter of minutes. “One day last fall we dumped 216 trucks,” Schaefer says. The efficiency in loading out trains is as equally impressive. The operations crew of four loads a 100-car train with wheat in 10 hours on the average. OFCE has its own locomotive to move rail cars for loading.
Nekoma handles wheat, canola, soybeans, barley, durum and flax, listed in order of volume, with wheat and canola comprising the majority of the grain handled. Most of the canola is shipped out by truck while most of the other grains are shipped via rail. The 100 rail car shuttle trains are mainly destined for the Gulf or the Pacific Northwest. Northern Plains Railroad is the handling carrier for placing equipment to the elevator and returning the shuttle trains when loaded back to the Canadian Pacific Railway which delivers them to their final destination.
“The people at NPR are good to work with. They’re very personable and they’re close, you get to talk to a person and not a computer,” Schaefer says. “They’re local. And they’re honest. If a train is going to be late, they’ll tell you.”
With more farmers in the region learning about the service at Nekoma, more farmers are sending their trucks that way. “It keeps getting busier,” Schaefer says. “Last year we loaded 2,000 rail cars. We’ll probably get 2,500 rail cars this year, or maybe even 3,000.”