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Coors brewery rail operations

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Coors brewery rail operations
Posted by Motley on Monday, November 18, 2019 11:54 AM

Wow! I just found this Trains article from 2006 all about the Coors rail operations. I wanted to find out how covered hopper silos were used. This is a great ariticle. I had no idea that Coors receives coal hoppers for their onsite power plant. Crazy!

This is how I will run the operations on my new layout.

Silver Bullet by Rail" by Mike Danneman, Trains, April 2006

Food has been shipped by train almost since railroading's inception. Beer in bottles or cans has moved in boxcars for generations, but it has only been in the past 20 years that one brewery has been moving it by the tankcar load.

Every day, a fleet of white tank cars moves batches of beer from the Coors Brewing Co. plant in Golden, Colo., to a second brewery in Memphis, Tenn., and a packaging plant in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, near the town of Elkton.

But the connection between Coors and railroading doesn't end there. Like many other brewers, Coors receives ingredients by rail, and it even operates its own in-plant railroad at the Golden brewery, the largest of its kind in the world. The brewing connection carries over to the BNSF locals that serve the brewery at the end of the 16-mile Golden Subdivision twice daily; they're well known as "beer runs."

As part of a nationwide distribution expansion, Coors opened its Virginia packaging plant along the Norfolk Southern right-of-way in 1985, and added its Tennessee brewery on what was then Burlington Northern's former St. Louis-San Francisco Railway in 1990.

Coors has always prided itself as a beer "brewed from pure Rocky Mountain spring water." Since the beer in its fleet of 316 tank cars is brewed in Golden and shipped east to be finished and packaged, the company today proclaims it is "a taste born high in the Rocky Mountains."

The trip begins at the Golden Beer loadout shed, where Coors' tank cars are cleaned and filled, then taken to Coors' North Yard for interchange to BNSF. Coors blocks the tank cars into two groups depending on whether the cars are destined to Memphis or Elkton, and BNSF takes them to its 38th Street Yard in Denver. Pre-blocking the cars means less work for BNSF when trains are built in Denver for eastern destinations.

Tank cars full of beer head for Kansas City on BNSF's former Burlington Northern rails through Holdrege, Neb., and St. Joseph, Mo. At Kansas City, the Elkton-bound tank cars are switched to Norfolk Southern, usually on NS train No. 111, a Kansas City-to-Roanoke, Va., freight. This route takes the tanks through St. Louis to Danville, Ky., where they travel down the famous "Rathole" to Harriman, Tenn., and then head east via Knoxville and Bristol, Tenn., to Elkton.

Memphis-bound cars at Kansas City continue south on BNSF through Springfield, Mo. The Coors brewery in Memphis is a former Schlitz plant that adjoins BNSF's Memphis yard. None of the tank cars go in unit trains, and it's not unusual for them to travel solo or in groups, depending on production and shipping needs. Once unloaded, the tank cars head back empty to Golden to start the process over again, with the cars returning via BNSF's beer trains to Coors' East Yard in Golden. Typically, it takes five to seven days for a tank car full of beer to travel from Golden to Virginia or Memphis, and a round-trip turnaround is 19 days.

Although the majority of beverage distributors get their beer by truck, the Coors brewery in Golden still ships about 250 boxcars per week of beer in bottles, cans, barrels, or kegs to distribution centers nationwide, said Coors Manager of Transportation Operations Jeff Solnick. The Virginia brewery also ships finished beer by rail in boxcars, mostly to the Northeast. Memphis ships by rail, as well, usually to the Southeast. From various distribution centers, the beer is then sent to the smaller distributors by truck.

As recently as the early 1990s, Coors' Golden brewery shipped about 600 to 700 rail cars per week. The Tennessee and Virginia operations have contributed to some of the decline, as they're closer to those markets, but the need to get its product to consumers faster also helped Coors decide.

"We used to have higher rail volumes, years back, such as in the early '90s. Most of our product is now shipped by truck," Solnick said. "It was driven by getting the product to the field faster and sustaining the freshness dates of Coors."

The tank beer arrives much quicker than the finished goods in a boxcar, partly because of the premium rates that Coors pays for the tank-car shipments.

Boxcar traffic also decreased when many distributors stopped accepting shipments at loading docks next to sidings. Now only the largest of the distributors can still take boxcar loads of product. "For example, a distributor may want three or four boxcars just of Coors Light of a specific pack type, where some of the smaller distributors wouldn't be able to take that kind of volume," Solnick said.

Most of Coors' raw commodities, including rice and barley, still arrive in Golden by rail. Much of the barley comes in covered hoppers from the San Luis Valley in Colorado and Worland, Wyo. Some barley also arrives by rail from Huntley, Mont. A Coors elevator in Longmont, Colo., gets rail-shipped barley from other locations, then forwards it to Golden by truck.

Inbound loads arrive at the East Silos elevator, which is known as McIntyre, named for the main road passing over the tracks to the west of the elevator. The unloading spot is just west of the Commodities Yard, where the cars are weighed and unloaded. Inbound grain is sorted and stored at the elevator.

When needed, grain is reloaded into 11 captive covered hoppers that move the product from the East Silos west to the main brewery complex and the West Silos. These hoppers are equipped with pneumatic gates and electrical hookups tied into timers in the brewing process. This enables the cars to release a precise amount of a specific grain directly into seep tanks at the appropriate time in the brewing process--even if no one's around.

Coal comes from Colorado's Moffat County and the mines south of Grand Junction on Union Pacific's North Fork branch. It usually arrives at a rate of about 10 to 13 cars a day to feed an onsite power plant.

Originally, the Colorado & Southern served and switched the Coors Brewery. As the complex grew, it expanded down the valley to the east in the only direction it could. Located between North and South Table Mountains, and the city of Golden to the west, the brewery had no other way to go. Expansion led to the construction of the South, East, and Commodities yards, and Coors' decision to buy its own locomotives and do the switching.

Today, the Coors plant railroad consists of 35.7 miles of track that links the facilities in the valley using six diesel switchers (see roster on page 46). Since it is a private railroad, Coors switchers never leave the property. A dispatcher monitors rail moves inside the plant 24 hours a day. The main line, called the "21 track," connects the eastern end of the railroad and the Commodities Yard with the brewery complex.

Coors also maintains a track department, shop, and refueling and sanding facilities. Gunderson is under contract to repair cars for Coors at a spot alongside the East Yard. Cars needing more extensive work are sent to a Gunderson facility at McIntyre Street off of BNSF's Golden Sub.

Coors typically runs four train crews on day shifts. One crew takes care of the commodities elevator and yard. This also includes taking the commodity cars across the entire main line to the main brewery complex. Another crew works the East Yard, breaking up the trains delivered by BNSF. Two "upper valley" crews put empty cars and cars with recyclables into the warehouse and pick up loads. This transload facility has a track that goes through the building to facilitate car loading.

One of the more unusual features of the Coors railroad is the north and south transfer tables inside the main brewery complex. These were built in the mid-1960s to expand the capabilities of the brewery to load cars in a limited space that would not otherwise accommodate a conventional switching yard. Upper valley crews use a Coors switcher to load cars onto a track, then the transfer tables convey them to a running track. A waiting switcher can then pick up the loaded car and swap it for an empty, and then the table moves the empty back to the loading door. This is done without using any track turnouts and without moving any adjoining cars that might be in the middle of loading.

One of the upper valley crews also moves the empty tank cars into the Golden beer loadout shed and takes the filled cars to the North Yard. These jobs also make the coal movements for the power plant.

The two-man crews that operate these jobs typically rotate between running the locomotive and working the ground every other day. They also rotate jobs every week. For example, the crew working the Commodities Yard one week will work one of the upper valley jobs the next. Coors calls the crews that run the trains "drivers," and they all come from within the ranks of other jobs in the brewery.

Even though the rail traffic to and from the huge Coors Brewery in Golden isn't as heavy as it used to be, the operation is still impressive. The addition of beer traveling by tank cars has also added a new dimension. The next time you see a bartender pour a "Silver Bullet," as the current Coors TV commercials call the product, remember that at some point, it traveled by train.

Michael


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Posted by mlehman on Monday, November 18, 2019 5:46 PM

It is a fascinating industrial line. In wonder what's changed in the last decade or so?

Mike Lehman

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, November 18, 2019 5:59 PM

I remember a thread about the Coors mansion, and I looked it up and it was yours.  I thought you actually did build it, but I couldn't find that thread.  If you did, show us the pics, please.

Henry

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Posted by Motley on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 3:14 AM

mlehman

It is a fascinating industrial line. In wonder what's changed in the last decade or so?

 

 
What has changed is. They don't brew the beer with Rocky Mountain spring water exclusively in Golden. They have several different breweries around the U.S.now, and they add minerals to get the same effect, with same taste.
 
Another thing I learned is they don't transfer the final product in the beer tankers any more, they ship out final product with insulated box cars and trucks. Apparantly some distributers don't have boxcar loading docks any more.
 
Also they can brew to a step before its fermented called "werton". Then they use the beer tanker cars to transfer the werton to other brewries where its fermented and final product.
 
I could probably have my entire layout Coors, and have fun running all these ops.

Michael


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Posted by Motley on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 3:16 AM

BigDaddy

I remember a thread about the Coors mansion, and I looked it up and it was yours.  I thought you actually did build it, but I couldn't find that thread.  If you did, show us the pics, please.

 

 
Rich was the one who scratch build it for me. Horrible story, I lost it throwing some old boxes away couple years ago.

Michael


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Posted by Motley on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 3:43 AM

Speaking of Coors, I just finished the first building. This thing is huge, its 21"x12". This is the Walthers paper mill kit. More buildings will be cold storage warehouse, grain elevevator, storage shed.

Michael


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Posted by Motley on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 3:57 AM

I want to model these corragulated silos next to this building. In addition to the concrete silos kit I already have.

I might have to scratch build it.

Michael


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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 5:34 AM

As another source of information on Coors railroad operations  was a article in Railfan & Railroad, maybe in  the late 80s? It's a good read

Larry

SSRy

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 7:22 AM

Motley
Horrible story

I'm sorry to hear that, but it could worse. 

My neighbor was cleaning out his deceased fathers' garage.  Steamer trunks piled to the ceiling stuffed with magazine and stuff.  Halfway through gold and silver coins started falling out of the pages of the magazines.  No telling how much made it to the dumpster.

Henry

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Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 9:04 AM

Motley

 

 
mlehman

It is a fascinating industrial line. In wonder what's changed in the last decade or so?

 

 

 
What has changed is. They don't brew the beer with Rocky Mountain spring water exclusively in Golden. They have several different breweries around the U.S.now, and they add minerals to get the same effect, with same taste.
 

From what you wrote, it seems that Coors uses local water sources and masks the taste from the Colorado River. 

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Posted by Renegade1c on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 11:28 AM

kasskaboose

 From what you wrote, it seems that Coors uses local water sources and masks the taste from the Colorado River. 

 

Water that comes in to Coors comes from Clear Creek which has its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains. It is not connected to the Colorado river.

Coors has some of the oldest water rights in the state and basically has first dibs on water from Clear Creek. 

A large portion of my layout is dedicated to the Coors Brewery. Operations will included coal for power plant, grain car transfers from the the McIntyre Grain Silo, Boxcar loading, and tank car loading

It is by far the largest industry on the layout and requires two full time operators. 

The hardest part so far has been find the switchers of appropriate era. Athearn put out a RTR model of a SW-1200 that Coors repainted in the 2000's. I happen to find one in a now-closed LHS. At club I belong to, however, had two older athearn BB units that some one custom painted. They were going to sell them at the local swap meet and one of the other members chimed in knowing I was modeling Coors and the club sold me the pair for $20. The drives weren't any good but the shells were in great shape. I did install a P2K drive under each of them. It took a little work but I think they came out ok. I still haven't brought myself to modify the hand rails to match the prototype.  So now I have a fleet of 3 switchers. I want to get a few more as backups but I'm having a heck of time finding decals. I thought about doing them myself but printing white is whole other level of work. I will probably had to get them professionally printed somewhere.

[


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Posted by azrail on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 1:45 PM

From what I hear in their ads, original Coors "Banquet" is only brewed in Golden...Coors Light is brewed at the other MillerCoors facilities across the country (such as Irwindale, CA-which is also BNSF served)

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Posted by Motley on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 3:32 PM

Yes that is correct. I'm a Coors light man myself.

Also a little known fact. Everybody from this area we call it "Colorado Koolaid".

 

Michael


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Posted by Motley on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 3:49 PM

Renegade1c
kasskaboose

 From what you wrote, it seems that Coors uses local water sources and masks the taste from the Colorado River. 

 Water that comes in to Coors comes from Clear Creek which has its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains. It is not connected to the Colorado river.

Coors has some of the oldest water rights in the state and basically has first dibs on water from Clear Creek. 

A large portion of my layout is dedicated to the Coors Brewery. Operations will included coal for power plant, grain car transfers from the the McIntyre Grain Silo, Boxcar loading, and tank car loading

It is by far the largest industry on the layout and requires two full time operators. 

The hardest part so far has been find the switchers of appropriate era. Athearn put out a RTR model of a SW-1200 that Coors repainted in the 2000's. I happen to find one in a now-closed LHS. At club I belong to, however, had two older athearn BB units that some one custom painted. They were going to sell them at the local swap meet and one of the other members chimed in knowing I was modeling Coors and the club sold me the pair for $20. The drives weren't any good but the shells were in great shape. I did install a P2K drive under each of them. It took a little work but I think they came out ok. I still haven't brought myself to modify the hand rails to match the prototype.  So now I have a fleet of 3 switchers. I want to get a few more as backups but I'm having a heck of time finding decals. I thought about doing them myself but printing white is whole other level of work. I will probably had to get them professionally printed somewhere.

[

 

Wow! that looks like the start of a great layout, and with Coors operations! Very nice. I wish I had more room on my new layout for Coors.

Is that the small creek that runs in the middle of Coors, that you are modeling there?

Oh please don't tell me about the Coors decals not available any more? I thought micrscale had them? I was going to do the same thing, get a red SW1200 switcher and put Coors decals on it. Let me know if you find anything.

What about using the Coors logo, and print that out on decal paper? Will that work?

Michael


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Posted by Renegade1c on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 10:13 PM

Motley

 

Wow! that looks like the start of a great layout, and with Coors operations! Very nice. I wish I had more room on my new layout for Coors.

Is that the small creek that runs in the middle of Coors, that you are modeling there?

Oh please don't tell me about the Coors decals not available any more? I thought micrscale had them? I was going to do the same thing, get a red SW1200 switcher and put Coors decals on it. Let me know if you find anything.

What about using the Coors logo, and print that out on decal paper? Will that work?

 

The problem is that Coors logo is White and printing white is difficult. Printing on a white sheet is not that simple either. I searched microscale for Coors decals and came up with nothing. 

 

yes, that is Clear Creek running through the Brewery. I'm going to start on the temporary buildings (Foam Core board) here shortly as placeholders until I can get all the real ones built. If its anything like the refinery it'll take me about 3-4 years to get all the permenant buildings constructed. 


Colorado Front Range Railroad: 
http://www.coloradofrontrangerr.com/

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Posted by Motley on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 11:26 AM

Renegade1c

The problem is that Coors logo is White and printing white is difficult. Printing on a white sheet is not that simple either. I searched microscale for Coors decals and came up with nothing. 

 yes, that is Clear Creek running through the Brewery. I'm going to start on the temporary buildings (Foam Core board) here shortly as placeholders until I can get all the real ones built. If its anything like the refinery it'll take me about 3-4 years to get all the permenant buildings constructed. 

 

 
Ok I think I found a solution. I found these slot car decals on ebay. Might be a bit big, but can put them on the body of the locomotive.
 

Michael


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Mile-HI-Railroad
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