New Auburn (WQOW) - An empty field in new auburn will soon be home to the state's largest rural rail transloading site. Northern Rail and Transload hosted a groundbreaking Wednesday before work to transform the area begins next week.
News 18 visited the site to see what will be coming and going from the area, and how it benefits the community.
"The edge of the loop tracks, the northern boundary of the loop tracks are going to be just in front of us, about fifty yards in front of us here," said Brian Gilbertson, Northern Rail & Transload Chief Operating Officer.
For now, this field is just weeds. But in time, railroad tracks like these will be much more common.
"We can unload commodities here, we can load commodities here. It's a very flexible facility. We've got a 220 acre site here and we've got a lot of space inside that triple loop track. We envision other companies being able to co-locate here, lease space from us, and do business. Companies that want to be served by rail," Gilbertson explained.
Northern Rail and Transload's site is a few miles north of New Auburn, and will sit just east of Highway 53. The company says propane shipping will be its first focus, but the company is open to a variety of business.
"From New Auburn up to Chetek, there's quite a bit of frac sand operations going on, so that's one commodity. But we've also talked to folks about road salt. Counties and the townships and at the state level ran out of road salt last year because they couldn't stockpile enough. We can provide a space for road salt," said Gilbertson.
The facility costs around $13 million to build. That includes adding tracks and supporting roads. A round triple loop of tracks in the middle will be able to hold up to 400 rail cars. But more tracks in the future could mean fewer headaches for motorists stuck at railroad crossings.
"We're going to put in another four miles of ladder track, so cars that you see kind of congesting the line between here and Chippewa Falls can easily be moved onto that storage track that we're going to move here," Gilbertson said.
Ground leveling at the site will begin next week, and Northern Rail and Transload hopes to be shipping propane by November. 20 - 25 new jobs will be filled in order to operate the facility.