More ore: Blast furnace fire-up means expanded BNSF ore traffic

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An SD70MAC is the DPU on a loaded BNSF all-rail train for Granite City, Ill. at Coon Creek Junction in Coon Rapids, Minn., in 2010.
Steve Glischinski
KEEWATIN, Minn. – BNSF Railway will soon see even more ore traffic out of U.S. Steel’s Keetac taconite pellet plant in Keewatin, northwest of Duluth. This week, U.S. Steel announced it will fire up a second blast furnace at its Granite City (Ill.) Works, which means it will need more taconite pellets from Keewatin. BNSF moves the ore on an all-rail route instead of relying on a Great Lakes boat for part of the journey.

U. S. Steel announced the restart of Granite City Works’ blast furnace “B” in March and began calling back about 500 employees. The plant had been idled in December 2015 because of what the company termed “challenging market conditions.” BNSF put together two 160-car sets to restart service between Keetac and Granite City, with the first trains operating in April.

Now the company will restart its second blast furnace “A.” U.S. Steel will hire around 300 new employees for the restart of “A” that will support increased shipments beginning in the fourth quarter.

BNSF symbols the loaded all-rail trains UKEEMAD (Keewatin-Madison, Ill.). With the second blast furnace opening, BNSF will put eventually put five or six 160-car train sets into service to handle the additional traffic.
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