The Floating Train — A New Proposal for Potash Distribution

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 71, No. 790, 1978

P. L Schwartz, National Manager, Fuels & Chemicals, CN Rail, Freight Marketing, Montreal, Quebec

The present method of shipping potash to the myriad of consumers is inefficient, not only because of the extreme and unpredictable nature of seasonal demand, but also because railway car turnaround times are very lengthy. The Floating Train system employs unit trains of potash operating from Saskatchewan mines to distribution warehouses located throughout the six corn-belt states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, transshipment points at Thunder Bay and the U.S. waterway network, and, where applicable, large consumers. These unit trains would "float", meaning that they would not originate at the same mine nor terminate at the same warehouse on each trip. They would "float" freely among the origins, destinations and participating railways. The potash would be shipped uniformly throughout the year and usually stored in warehouses located within the six states. It would be subsequently delivered to consumers within a 75-mile radius. Distribution warehouses and rolling stock would be provided by a new company, Potash Distribution Limited, consisting of major potash producers and the Canadian railways. Potash Distribution Limited would be responsible for the distribution of potash from the origin through the warehouses to the final consumer. The additional costs of providing warehouse space and outbound delivery will be offset by the reduction in both rail rates and "peaking" expenses.
Keywords: Transportation, "Floating trains", Unit trains, Potash, Railways.