Pro/Angle Bunker Sand, Intermodal Shipping by Rail
Written by Eric Ludewig @ProAngleOhio
Nature blessed us with the perfect geology to produce the highest performing sand in the golf industry, but that same geology is limited to a small patch in Northeast Ohio, far from many markets that we serve.
Our challenge is creating a supply chain to deliver Pro/Angle to markets that don’t have locally sourced alternatives that perform like Pro/Angle.
Delivery by truck is the simplest choice, but as the miles add up, the costs, the volume and trucking availability force us to consider alternatives.
One such alternative we utilize is intermodal transportation, which defined is moving freight by two or more modes.
One form of intermodal transportation we use is transportation by rail, the two modes used are truck and train.
The first mode begins when a truck comes in to our mine to load Pro/Angle. After loading and scaling, the truck delivers to a nearby rail transload facility.
Sand is transferred from the bulk dump truck onto a conveyor fed by a hopper which transfers the sand into a rail car.
The rail cars we use have 3 hatches on top, so the train engine moves the cars forward and backwards so we can load evenly.
The rail cars we typically use are closed top hopper cars, very beneficial in reducing sand loss by wind as the train travels.
Each rail car holds approximately 115 tons of Pro/Angle. With an average payload of 24 tons in a bulk dump truck, one rail car replaces four and a half trucks.
Once at the destination rail yard, the cars are unloaded by opening hatches on the bottom of the car and transferring to a conveyor.
Some rail yards have a pit beneath the track where the sand meets the conveyor, other yards have a flat conveyor that slides beneath the hatches for unloading.
The Pro/Angle is either stockpiled at the yard with trucks being loaded with a front-end loader, or some yards transload the sand directly from the rail car to a dump truck.
Once the Pro/Angle is loaded at the receiving rail yard, final delivery is made to the course.
US Rail System:
The rail system in the US consists of several major carriers whose rail is referred to as “mainline”. These mainline carriers such as Norfolk Southern or CSX connect to smaller railroads called “short lines” There are approximately 600 short line operators in the United States.
Our rail-based shipping originates on a short line, the cars transfer to a main line, and then transfers to another short line near the final destination.
In some cases, more than one main line may be used in addition to the short lines. In one example, we shipped Pro/Angle to New Mexico a few years ago, and the route used main rail on CSX then Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) before arriving at the destination.
Most of our shipping east of the Mississippi uses only one main line: CSX or Norfolk Southern.
How do we choose method of shipping?
Its ultimately up to the end customer, but we like to provide alternatives in determining the right solution.
Factors in choosing rail over trucking:
Distance: Once a shipment is around 500 miles or more, it starts to make sense to look at rail.
Route: The destination city must be served by a main line and short line railroad.
Facilities: It must be determined if there is a facility that can transload material near the job site.
Cost: When all of fees are added up: delivery, transloading on, rail fees, transloading off, and final delivery, is there a financial benefit in using.
Trucking Availability: Changes to the trucking market since 2020 impact the number of available trucks. The question of sufficient trucking must be considered.
Time: Unlike a truck that delivers in 1-3 days, a loaded rail car can take a week to multiple weeks to reach its destination. Rail requires advanced planning.
Sustainability: On average, railroads are three to four times more fuel efficient than trucks on a ton-mile basis.
After evaluating all of the factors, the question: “Does it make sense” has to be answered.
Delivering to meet your project needs is a collaborative effort between you, us and our transportation network. We’re here to help find the right solution for you.