08 Jun First Unit Train Sent on CoPac Railroad from Weskan Grain
On Wednesday, May 3rd, an event of tremendous significance unfolded in Kiowa County, marking the beginning of a new economic era for the county and beyond. For Stefan Soloviev, CEO of Soloviev Group, a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, this achievement was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.
Given Soloviev Group’s diverse portfolio, ranging from real estate and art collections to casinos and renewable energy, the impact of a business transaction in Kiowa County may seem surprising. However, the revival of a seemingly defunct railroad represents a significant accomplishment, particularly for the communities it serves.
The historic day witnessed the Colorado Pacific Railroad, under the Soloviev Group’s ownership, loading 110 full grain cars within an impressive 36 hours at the newly constructed Weskan Grain Elevator. Located at Stockton Siding, just east of Plainview School on Highway 96, this elevator serves as a crucial link for local producers, including Crossroads Ag, a subsidiary of the Soloviev Group.
These grain cars, filled not only with milo from Crossroads Ag but also from other local producers, were transported via rail to the Union Pacific interchange at NA Junction, near Pueblo. From there, the unit train embarked on its journey to a market in the Houston, TX area, signaling a significant breakthrough for farmers in Kiowa County and western Kansas.
To grasp the immense importance of this achievement, we must revisit the history of Kiowa County and its relationship with the railroad. Constructed in the late 1880s by the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the railroad line played a vital role in the county’s development, with towns such as Arlington, Haswell, Eads, and Towner springing up alongside it. The railroad acted as a lifeline, connecting the county to the outside world—until it abruptly ceased operations in 1996.
The cessation was a blow to the county’s economy, leaving it economically stagnant for an extended period. The 122-mile Towner line, acquired by Union Pacific in 1996, faced an uncertain future. Fortunately, Soloviev’s determination to revive this rail line prevented its demise. Engaging in a legal battle against V&S Railroad, a scrap and salvage company aiming to dismantle the line, Soloviev successfully forced its sale and acquired it in 2018.
The purchase of the Towner line marked the birth of Colorado Pacific Railroad, resurrecting a railroad that had once been declared dead. However, revitalizing the line necessitated extensive renovations and improvements. With the assistance of CWC Rail, Inc. and Crouch Engineering, Soloviev invested around $3.5 million to rehabilitate the line, which was completed in late 2020.
Before the rail line could open for business, the construction of the interchange at NA Junction was essential. This interchange included the creation of two new sidings, facilitating flexibility for the Towner line. The completion of the NA Junction project in early 2021, with a price tag of approximately $3.4 million, paved the way for the seamless flow of freight between Colorado Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) Railroad, and Union Pacific Railroad.
In tandem with these developments, Soloviev recognized the need for substantial grain storage facilities. Unable to acquire existing elevators along the Towner line, he embarked on the construction of Weskan Farms, a massive grain elevator strategically located on Highway 96 and adjacent to the Colorado Pacific Railroad.
Weskan Grain, owned and operated by the Soloviev Group, now stands as a testament to Soloviev’s commitment to local producers. With the capacity to store up to 3 million bushels of grain and plans for future expansion, Weskan Grain serves as a game-changer for the region. The facility’s seven concrete bin towers and four steel bins, constructed at a cost of approximately $20 million, offer a state-of-the-art storage solution for local producers.
The construction of Weskan Grain was no small feat. With the assistance of R&T Redi Mix, a local company, the project involved pouring cement for the facility’s towers over a period of six months. Despite challenging weather conditions and the need to transport cement from a distant location, the team persevered, pouring an estimated 13,000 to 14,000 yards of cement.
What makes Weskan Grain truly exceptional is its dual-service capability. Positioned to be served by two Class I railroads, the facility boasts a competitive edge over other grain railroads in the region. The heavy-axle trains employed at Weskan Grain allow for the loading of longer cars, providing enhanced efficiency and capacity.
In line with its commitment to serving the needs of local producers, Weskan Grain has plans for expansion. The forthcoming satellite elevator at Galatea, situated between Eads and Haswell, will further streamline grain transportation for farmers in western areas. Leveraging the Colorado Pacific Railroad’s right-of-way property, this expansion project will enable producers to save time and fuel by unloading grain at high speed. With easy accessibility for both producers and trains, Weskan Grain continues to revolutionize the agribusiness landscape.
The recent milestone achieved by Colorado Pacific Railroad, in collaboration with Weskan Grain, is a testament to Stefan Soloviev’s unwavering vision and determination. The revival of a seemingly forgotten rail line and the establishment of a cutting-edge grain storage facility exemplify Soloviev Group’s commitment to innovation and supporting local communities.
This remarkable achievement has garnered widespread attention, and we invite you to read the article in Kiowa County Independent that delves deeper into the significance of this milestone. Click here to access the article and gain a comprehensive understanding of the journey that led to this momentous occasion.
At Colorado Pacific Railroad, we are proud to be a catalyst for economic growth, providing reliable and efficient rail transportation services that connect communities, support local businesses, and empower farmers to reach markets never before accessible. We remain dedicated to our mission of fostering prosperity and look forward to continuing our journey of progress alongside the remarkable individuals and communities we serve.
Contact Colorado Pacific Railroad today to learn more about our services, explore partnership opportunities, or share your story. Together, let’s shape a brighter future for rail transportation and the communities we connect.