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Train cuts ribbon as transload facility christened
new deh transload ribbon pic 2 web
Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Collier addresses those gathered for the ribbon cutting for the Great Bend transload facility Thursday morning about the importance of the facility and what it means to states economy. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 With scores of massive white wind turbine components as a backdrop, officials cut the ceremonial ribbon for the Great Bend transload facility Thrusday afternoon. The site, located in the Great Bend Industrial park west of town, has been in use for a couple months now, but this just marked its grand opening. 

“This is a very important day for Kansas,” said Lt. Gov. Jeff Collier. A decade ago, talks began on a “smarter infrastructure” for Kansas, “and today is a central part of that.”

The facility is a vital element helping connect Kansas to the nation and the rest of the world, he said. “This is a big investment. It is a key infrastructure.”

Collier joined Kansas Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson, Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison, other federal, state, and local dignitaries, as well as representatives from private sector partners WATCO Companies and Sherwood Companies under a tent at the site. Also present were state legislators and representatives of national lawmakers, as well as city and Barton County officials and interested citizens. 

“What we are looking at now is a 21st Century business model,” Secretary Carlson said. “Freight plays an important part in moving our state’s economy and this facility is already providing infrastructure that will benefit the community and increase opportunity for freight shipping and cost effectiveness.”

KDOT contributed $3 million in state funds to the $8 million project, with the rest contributed by private industry, he said. The investment enhances shipping options to better move goods from one mode of transportation to another, in this case, from truck to rail and rail to truck.

There was also an additional $360,000 in federal funds kicked in that will improve the rail crossing on U.S. 56 just north of the U.S. 56-Airport Road intersection.

A great partnership

“In my mind, this has been the right project at the right time with the right people,” said Chamber President Jan Peters. “It really was a team. It’s all about the people.” 

Partners for the project are the Kansas Department of Transportation, WATCO Companies and the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (K&O Railroad), Sherwood Construction, the City of Great Bend, Fuller Properties, and the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. 

Peters said there are now 521 wind turbine parts packed into the site. The effort has brought $1.4 million to local businesses, from contractors to restaurants and hotels.

The need to transport and store raw materials is a challenge, especially in rural areas, said Matt Richie with Sherwood Construction, a long-time partner of WATCO that will manage the site through its subsidiary Kansas Transload Services. “This puts you on the logistics map. This facility can be an important piece to connect all those dots.”

“Thank you everyone for allowing this to happen,” said Pat Cedeno with the Pittsburg-based WATCO Company. Watco owns the K&O Railroad which will serve the facility. It manages 65 to 70 terminals or transload facilities across the country. 

“We are opening up markets and we are opening up opportunities for our community and for our state,” Cedeno said. This will, in turn, open up markets and opportunities globally.

But, there are now great expectations. “We will not let you down,” he said.

After the speeches, the ceremony moved to the railroad track. Attendees held a giant red ribbon across the track while the WuShock train (a locomotive decorated with Wichita State University logos) plowed through it.



Great Bend was selected as a transload site in 2015 by the Transload Facility Site Analysis Selection Committee. Construction began in July of 2016. The facility is currently being used for the storage of wind components and will be operational for aggregate and cement within the next month.

The Site Analysis Committee, a part of the Kansas Department of Transportation/Kansas Turnpike Authority, selected the finalists from 111 proposals. Only eight cities were invited to submit proposals. 

Only Great Bend and Garden City were picked as finalists in September 2015. But, the idea for a Kansas facility was born several years ago when then Transportation Secretary Mike King and other state officials saw other such sites and realized they could work in rural Kansas.

“This was Mike King’s vision,” Peters said. “Richard Carlson has kept that vision alive.”

The Great Bend operation sits on 17 acres leased from the city for $400 per month. There are three tracks for loading and unloading, as well as staging, for up to 45 rail cars. 

Kansas is in the middle of the United States and Great Bend is in the middle of Kansas, making this an ideal location, officials said. This and the fact the Great Bend Municipal Airport, two trucking companies and other businesses are nearby make Great Bend an ideal fit, Carlson said.

In addition, the location near the airport has access to more than one rail line, on-ground storage and, through an agreement with Fuller Industries, warehousing options.