Fields of massive white wind turbine parts and mounds of rock and cement are crowding the Great Bend transload facility west of town, a facility that continues to expand.
Now, a third track is complete. This greatly increases the number of railcars which can be handled.
“This greatly improves the logistics for how we unload our products,” said Mark Bartezko, operations manager for Kansas Transload Services which manages the facility.
As of January, more than 400 railroad cars carrying cement and aggregate have gone through the facility. More than 400 cars of wind turbine components have also arrived.
At that time, there were 850 turbine components on the ground at the Great Bend site and another 1,800 at a sister facility near Pawnee Rock.
“It’s a work in progress,” Bartezko said.
Since the ribbon cutting last June, Kansas Transload Services has handled the hundreds of railcars worth of materials, doubled the cement unloading area, upgraded the 1,000-ton-per-hour conveying system, and stockpiled over 20,000 tons of various Kansas Department of Transportation-approved rock and aggregate, Bartezko said, adding there is so much potential.
“To see the possibilities in a project like this is exciting, but to be part of the reality is truly gratifying,” Bartezko said, adding the facility was a huge labor of love, and everyone involved deserves thanks.
“We are looking forward to working with local industries to develop transportation solutions,” Bartezko said. “KTS is working to incorporate outgoing rail transport into the business. It is too early to predict the future, but the forecast looks like greatly increased volume in 2018.”
Setting a standard
Now, Great Bend has been considered as a case study for how to establish a transload facility, said Great Bend Chamber of Commerce President Jan Peters. “I think we were selected, number one probably because of the partnerships we’ve had. This project really took place because of all those partners and has been extremely successful.”
The study is being done by the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and it will appear in an upcoming association publication.
There are a lot of partners that made this happen, Peters said.
KDOT was the key investor. The City of Great Bend and the chamber helped take this project from the planning stages to completion.
Pittsburg-based Watco, which has been in the rail business for 35 years, was a private investor in the facility and took the lead in the development and construction management. The K&O Railroad is the division of Watco which is the rail service provider.
Innovative Livestock Services and Fuller Industries have provided indoor warehousing and land for the wind lay-down yards in Great Bend and Pawnee Rock.
Watco Supply Chain is handling the transport and storage of the wind energy components.
Sherwood Construction, the parent company of Kansas Transload Services, was the private investor that took the role as operator of the facility.
Ash Grove Cement and Summit/Cornejo Quality Materials are also involved.
Great Bend was selected as a transload site in September 2015 by the Transload Facility Site Analysis Selection Committee. The committee, a part of the Kansas Department of Transportation/Kansas Turnpike Authority, selected from 111 applications. Only eight cities were invited to submit proposals. Only Great Bend and Garden City were picked as finalists
Construction began in July of 2016 and the ribbon cutting was in June 2017.
The facility was used for the storage of wind components prior to the grand opening in June, at which time it was operational for aggregate and cement.
The Great Bend operation sits on 17 acres leased from the city for $400 per month.
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.
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.