By BILL SHEA
For Farm News
ORT DODGE – The blare of train horns is a common sound throughout Fort Dodge and north central Iowa.
That’s because the community is served by two railroads: the Canadian National and the Union Pacific.
Those two railroads cross each other about seven miles west of town, and that intersection is one of the key factors that led to the creation of the North Central Ag Industrial Park.
That park is the location of the Valero Renewables ethanol plant, and the Cargill facility now being renovated to produce a sugar called dextrose and some ethanol. The CJ CheilJedang Corp. amino acid plant is being built there also.
The rail juncture in the Ag Industrial Park is somewhat unique. It is the only place in the Midwest, outside of a major city, where two large railroads intersect. It’s also just one of seven such junctures in rural areas in the entire country.
The Union Pacific Railroad tracks cross Fifth Avenue South, which makes the company’s trains highly visible in the community. The railroad also owns the High Bridge over the Des Moines River and a railyard north of Callender that was built in 2006 to serve local ethanol plants.
There are three regular trains that work in the Fort Dodge area, according to Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis. He said two of those trains run five days a week, serving industries in and around Fort Dodge. The other regular train runs six days a week making round trips between Fort Dodge and Eagle Grove, he added.
Davis said the railroad has 13 employees based in Fort Dodge with an annual payroll of about $100,000.
Union Pacific doesn’t have any major improvement projects planned for the Fort Dodge area this year.
The railroad’s foundation has contributed $220,000 to charitable organizations in Iowa so far this year, according to Davis. He said locally the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way and the Society for the Appreciation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing have received grants in 2012.
The Union Pacific is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. To mark the occasions, a steam locomotive pulling museum cars will visit the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Ames and Boone later this year.
The Canadian railroad gained a presence in Fort Dodge in 1998, when it bought the Illinois Central Railroad. It has the large railyard that’s easily seen from the Kenyon Road Bridge. Its tracks cross the far western end of Central Avenue and go over the Des Moines River near Hawkeye Avenue.
Calls seeking comment from Canadian National spokesman Patrick Waldron were not returned.
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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