By far the two biggest industries on the line are CHS Inc, which handles 90% of all the grain produced in the Flathead Valley, and Plum Creek Timber. According to the railroad's website, there is a total of 12 customers being serviced at 15 locations along both branches.
Overall, this rail line offers something for everyone. There is the industrial district in the planning which will move all industries served by rail to the north of downtown Kalispell, but if you like running along the streets, the railroad still serves two or three industries, including CHS (400 car loads of grain per year) in the heart of Kalispell. For the Class I fans, the MMR interchanges with the mighty BNSF at Stryker and Columbia Falls, offering mainline running between the two branches. If you'd rather model the rural areas, the Stryker-Eureka line sees regular traffic and the route follows the scenic and quaint Tabacco creek.
The question then becomes, where should a modeler start? Eventually I'd like to model the entire line, both branches, and use the BNSF main line as a sort of staging yard. However, for now I must decide what area to model first, and I think modeling the future "Glacier Rail Park" is the best place to start for several reasons:
- The area is compact, roughly 1,300 feet long and about 700 foot wide.
- There will be a minimum of 3 industries, or as many as 10 in a few years.
- Since the area is in the planning stage, there is much leeway as to what industries could be served.
- The entire park will be serviced by one engine, WAMX (MMR) #1501, and SW1500.
- On days when WAMX #1501 won't be switching the district, there is #3807, a GP-38-2, or an ex-UP GP38-2 to take the SW's place.
- Modern era rolling stock will be seen right next to equipment that has been in service since the late 60's.
- The industries will vary, thus creating a mix of rolling stock, plus the addition of a team track.
- There will be a long team track, likely bedded into gravel with one or two pits for gravel/grain, etc.
- CHS will have a new elevator that will have 48 car capacity, being that 48 is the magic number to reduce the cost of bulk rail shipments.
- CHS will therefore need one dedicated track for loading grain and another for car storage, as well as a runaround track.
- An independent runaround track will be a must for the other industries.
- Other industries are up for interpretation but it will be safe to assume at least one dedicated track will be required.
Anyway, that's the tentative track plan!