Tragedies and memories

A tragedy yesterday in my hometown of Forest City reminded me of a photo that I took years ago during a sunset behind a rusty windmill in Union County. As I was stopped along side the road taking the picture a car pulled up behind me.

The sun sets behind a windmill in Union County south of Winterset, Iowa.

The sun sets behind a windmill in Union County south of Winterset, Iowa.

A gentleman rolled down his window and said good evening to me. We talked about the beauty of the sunset and the rolling prairie that faded off into the distance for several minutes before he told me that he had just come from a funeral visitation for a close friend that had passed away.

That’s when he told me that his friend would be proud to see someone, like myself, alongside the road taking time to appreciate a simple sunset. His heart was heavy as he rolled his window up and drove away.

It was a powerful moment for me, knowing that memories and snapshots are often all we have to remember loved ones that have passed. That man and his story about missing his friend that night will always be attached to this photograph.

I hope that the family in my hometown that suffered such a devastating loss this weekend can hold on to the memories of their children and look at simple things like sunrises and sunsets as a reminder of their joyful memories.

Golden rails

A fitting find today while driving home from an assignment in North Iowa. Today I celebrated my dad's birthday although we lost him several years ago. Trains have been in my family for many generations and my father chased trains as a hobby. His hobby of photographing trains led me to my career as a photojournalist. Little signs always make me smile!

The sun illuminates railroad tracks in southern Iowa.

The sun illuminates railroad tracks in southern Iowa.

Record harvest not expected to stress rail transportation

Rail service in the face of a record-setting harvest is up to the challenge according to industry experts. Recent upgrades to rail service combined with soft commodity prices should allow the flow of soybeans and corn from the Midwest to export destinations on the coasts.

The sun dips towards the horizon creating reflections off of rails near Independence, Iowa. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

The sun dips towards the horizon creating reflections off of rails near Independence, Iowa. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

“We expect rail service to be good for the 2015 harvest,” Mike Steenhoek, the executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, said. “Railroads have invested vigorously over the past year, so they have responded to demand.”

Congestion and delays in previous years are believed to be relieved this year because of several factors. The top seven rail carriers have made infrastructure improvements over the past year, and a drop in petroleum production means less traffic on the rail lines according to Steenhoek.

“Union Pacific plans to spend $4.2 billion on capital investments this year. Of that, we expect to spend about $1.85 billion for infrastructure replacement,” Kristen South of Union Pacific said. “As part of our business planning process, we continuously evaluate how projected volumes fit within the confines of network capacity and make corresponding adjustments to our capital plan as volume and returns dictate.”

South went on to say that Union Pacific is expecting a muted peak season but are ready for the demand if market forces change.

“We have more than 2,000 covered hoppers in storage available to meet unanticipated surges in equipment needs for grain,” She said.

The stronger U.S. dollar and softening export markets have also removed pressure from rail service according to Steenhoek.

“Farmers are holding on to their grain so we are expecting much of the 2015 crop will be stored,” he said. “That means they will impose less of it on the rail network, and they will have adequate capacity to handle what comes their way.”

Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association. Find more great stories at: www.iasoybeans.com/news