A friend, Brian Sykes of Atlanta, GA, and formerly of Cameron was back home for Thanksgiving. He wanted to railfan the shortline railroad Wisconsin Northern that runs between Chippewa Falls and Barron. It was Saturday and no trains were running but we were able to see some industries it serves.
There's a new sand business in New Auburn that will be shipping out unit trains of 100 cars. They fill the cars with frac (short for fracture) sand that is used in oil drilling. The sand is sent to Texas. The first train of 60 cars was sent last week and subsequent cars will be 100 in length.
At New Auburn we found sand piled for future shipments.
They load the sand with an endloader from the "road" between the sand and track.
Frac sand is VERY FINE and hard but feels very soft to the touch. But these piles contain lots of rocks. Apparently this sand will be filtered or strained, and dried, when it gets to Texas.
This is the loader they use to load the cars:
And this is the equipment they use(d) to clean out and level this area:
To the left of the sand piles is a large rectangular depression they have made. I have no idea what it is for. Any thoughts????
We don't know where they are getting the sand. (But we MAY have found out).
We left New Auburn and went to Bloomer where I showed Brian the new WWT shipping point. Again, being Saturday, nothing was happening. We found 8 tank cars waiting to be filled. Only 6 fit on this siding so 2 were stored at PMI Steel right next to this facility. There may be cars inside the building also.
We left Bloomer to go to Norma, on the north side of Chippewa Falls where a gigantic sand shipping facility is being built. But on the way, north of Eagleton, I noticed some big sand piles. So we drove over there and we THINK we have found the frac sand pit. Again, no action or people around, but there has been recently and there's a brand new gate here. But there's not trucks around . . . . ???
At Norma, in the wye, we found this tank car with a pump beside it. It is being unloaded and contains dust inhibitor they put on roads.
I have taken many pictures of the sprawling new sand plant so didn't take any this time. We were more interested in the tracks they are going to put in. They have started dumping ballast and have lots of ties piled ready to go. Here's a shot of where they are going to tie into the existing track. Looks like they will hook into the long passing track that goes down the hill and switches back into the main.
After driving around Chippewa Falls looking at other rail sites, it was getting dark so we headed home. Couldn't be late--was going to the "Unstoppable" movie. I highly recommend it. A great day (and the Badgers and Gophers BOTH won!!)