New machine brings efficiency and safety to unloading coal in Willmar

WILLMAR -- Chris Rosen and other coal handlers at Willmar Municipal Utilities' power plant were excited when they received training Wednesday on a new comfortable, efficient and safer railroad coal car unloader called the Carhoe.

Willmar Municipal Utilities
Jon Folkedahl, (left) director of electric production for the Willmar Municipal Utilities power plant, listens as David Thacker, (second from left) sales manager at the Tiffen, Ohio, company that manufactures the Carhoe coal-car unloader, discusses operational details with coal handlers Wednesday. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

WILLMAR - Chris Rosen and other coal handlers at Willmar Municipal Utilities’ power plant were excited when they received training Wednesday on a new comfortable, efficient and safer railroad coal car unloader called the Carhoe.
The old unloader was not safe. It sits on the back of an old single-axle truck and the operator was exposed to the elements at all times. The operator was required to climb a ladder, sidestep down an I-beam and into a bucket seat about 16 feet above the ground.
Access to the new Carhoe is by a stairway to a catwalk with railings and into an enclosed, air-conditioned and heated cab.
The machine was installed Tuesday on top of a bridge structure that straddles the railroad siding behind the power plant where the coal cars are unloaded.
Rosen said the new Carhoe will be a very good addition to the utilities.
“We’re going to get a lot more done with this thing,’’ he said standing on the catwalk and watching a fellow coal handler receive training from David Thacker, sales manager for Carhoe manufacturer Sarka Conveyor and Automation of Tiffen, Ohio.
Carhoes are also used to unload products such as dried distillers grain and stone.
Thacker said the coal handlers told him the Carhoe is an important tool for the power plant.
“Once you teach the operators how to use the machine, we let them find their own knack and how to unload the rail car,’’ he said. “Every operator has their own strategic plan and how to get it unloaded and they’ll figure that out on their own just from using it.’’

Three area schools were on the Focus School list, indicating that they have more work to do in narrowing their achievement gaps.
Roosevelt Elementary in Willmar remained on the Focus list after landing there two years ago.
Cheryl Nash, Willmar’s director of teaching and learning, said Roosevelt’s Multiple Measurement Rating and test scores have increased, particularly in the last year, but they didn’t go up enough to leave the Focus list.
Roosevelt has also had different leadership in each of the last three years.
“It’s awesome for Kennedy,” Nash said. Kennedy, with the help of federal grants, developed a variety of interventions to help narrow achievement gaps and to help all children show academic growth.
Because Kennedy was initially ranked lower, there was a greater priority in making the changes there, she said. Kennedy also received grant funds for the effort.
Roosevelt was not eligible for federal grants, but the district used local funds to implement some of the same efforts there. However, the grants paid for additional school leadership at Kennedy that wasn’t available at Roosevelt.
“We tried to allocate the same, but there wasn’t the same oversight,” Nash said.
“I don’t have a doubt that they’ll be fine,” she said. “They’re moving in the right direction.”
In a news release, Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said the scores show progress but also show that there’s still work to be done on Minnesota’s achievement gap, judged the largest in the country a few years ago.
“This tells us what we’ve known all along,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a news release Wednesday. “Our schools can close achievement gaps, but it’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes everyone working toward a focused and common goal: making sure every single student succeeds. This is a tribute to the tremendous work of teachers, schools leaders and community members who have come together to support their students.”
The state listed 131 schools as Reward schools, 217 as Celebration Eligible and 155 as Priority or Focus schools.
“This is not about labeling schools as failing; it is about recognizing what is working and what isn’t, and doing whatever it takes,” said Commissioner Cassellius. “Teachers and principals tell us that the collaborative nature of the work is empowering. We know they are already working hard. It’s the focused support - working side-by-side in the classroom rather than top down - that’s helping get better, faster results.”
The state has established Regional Centers of Excellence around the state to work with school districts to find what will work to help their students. Schools that have worked with the centers have seen their scores improve, according to the news release.
“While the results we see today are encouraging, we still have more work to do,” said Cassellius. “We need all hands on deck if we are going to reach our goal of giving every Minnesota child a great education.”
Eight area schools were included on the Reward list, and some have been there more than once: ACGC Elementary; ACGC Elementary grades 5 and 6, recognized three times; Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Elementary, recognized three times; BOLD Elementary; Lac qui Parle Valley Madison-Marietta-Nassau Elementary, recognized three times; Lac qui Parle Valley Appleton Elementary, recognized four times; MACCRAY West Elementary, recognized three times; and New London-Spicer Prairie Woods Elementary.
Seven area schools were listed as Celebration Eligible: Glacial Hills Elementary of Starbuck; Hancock Elementary; Lac qui Parle Valley Middle School; Minnewaska Area Elementary; Minnewaska Area Middle School; Paynesville Elementary; and Kennedy Elementary of Willmar.
Three area schools were listed as Focus schools: Renville County West Elementary; Roosevelt Elementary of Willmar; and Yellow Medicine East’s Bert Raney Elementary. One school, ECHO Charter School was placed on a Continuous Improvement list, which makes it eligible for an audit and additional resources from the state.

coal handler
The cat-bird chair to operate the old “ice pick” to free-up frozen coal was a cold seat in January for a coal handler. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

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