Chicken Diesel: The Story Behind Our Rose Acre Farms MP15AC
How do you feed two million egg-laying hens in the middle of the Arizona desert? With a 110-car BNSF grain train, of course.
Our Rose Acres MP15AC models the plant switcher at a unique egg-producing facility in southwest Arizona, near the California border. Built by Indiana-based Rose Acre Farms, the nation’s second-largest egg producer, the Lone Cactus Egg Farm currently occupies five cage-free egg-laying houses on 3,000 acres in Utting Arizona, population 126. Billed as “the single largest economic development in La Paz County since the county was formed in 1983,” the farm is designed to serve the California market — which is required by law to sell only eggs from cage-free facilities. The isolated desert location offered the benefits of proximity to California markets, cheaper land prices, and lower risk of contamination from other birds carrying avian flu.
But nourishing two million hens — projected to expand to three million in the future — requires a lot of chicken feed. To accomplish this, the Lone Cactus Farm is served by the Lone Cactus Railroad, a spur off the nearby Arizona and California Railroad. A short line that’s part of the Genesee & Wyoming system, the A&C connects with the BNSF railway in California and Arizona. These connections allow BNSF unit trains to bring in chicken feed on a regular basis.
At the farm terminal, “the 2.5 mile railroad loop of the Lone Cactus Railroad is designed to hold an entire 110-car unit train,” according to Rose Acre Farms. “As the train enters the mill, each car is unloaded while the train travels the loop in a continuous operation, never stopping before departing back on the mainline of the Arizona and California Railroad.” Check out this video to see the unloading process in action, with three engines pulling and another three engines pushing on a BNSF unit train:
Known officially as the Tanya Cecil Grain and Railroad Terminal — named after the late head of the A&C Railroad —the farm terminal is also served by the Lone Cactus Railroad’s sole piece of motive power: RAFX 1404, a 1980s-vintage EMD MP15AC. Previously owned by the Milwaukee Road and the Union Pacific, No. 1404 today looks factory-new in its Rose Acres paint scheme. See it in action — along with the visiting BNSF Holiday Express Train — in this video of the terminal dedication ceremonies in December 2018:
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O Gauge RailKing MP15AC Diesel Engine w/Proto-Sound 3.0