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September 1997 - Page 56


ABOVE: To restore a rail connection to Columbus, Nebraska, partially aban doned and dismantled in 1 984, BNSF built a bridge across the Platte River. Pioneers described this waterway as being "a mile wide and an inch deep." BELOW: A grain ele vator marks the location 01 Ulysses, Nebraska, as a short Columbus tine train cruises across gen tly rolling countryside on October 27, 1 998. OPPO SITE PAGE: GP39M 2828 is again seen near Ulysses, but this October 1 3, 1 998, train has a substantial train in tow.

F or the first four years of the plant's operation, rail service was provided exclusively by Union Pacif ic, whose Council B luffs Sub main line is about one mile nort h . This changed in 1 996, when BNSF estab lished itself as a strong competitor by promising bet ter service and faster transit time. Offering rail service to MCP was no small feat for Burlington Northern & S anta Fe. I t took nearly two years to complete the rail connection to Columbus,

even though the c i ty had, until fairly recently, been served by BNSF's predecessors.

H istory
T he B u r l i n gt o n N or t h e rn & S a n t a Fe C o l u m b u s Branch was b u i l t b y L i n c o l n & N o rt hwestern be tween September 1 879 and May 1 880. The line later became part of the B u r l i n gton Route, and fi n a l l y Burli ngton Northern, before being par t i a l l y a bandoned by BN in 1 9 84. The last BN train to Columbus operated on March 23, 1 984. The line was ripped up between Columbus and Bel lwood, ter minating just south of the Platte River. Between Bel lwood and Seward the line re m a i n e d i n servi c e , a l t h ough t ra i n s were infrequent .

B ack in Business
I n 1 99 2 , shortly after M in nesota Corn P r o c e s s o r s c o m m e n c e d opera t i o n a t Columbus, BN realized the revenue op portunity. In summer 1 994, the railroad replaced ties on the branch between Se ward and Bellwood, fueling speculation that it was going to rebuild the l ine be tween Bellwood and Columbus. Further

5 8. September 1 997

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