Greasing the skids, or rails, with soybean grease


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – SoyTrak is a new, environmentally friendly grease made out of soybeans and used to lubricate the rail curves of railroad tracks.

It’s processed and turned into grease on the farm where the soybeans are first picked. It is biodegradable and more efficient than petroleum grease in reducing wear because of its greater durability and capacity for reducing friction.

SoyTrak is now in use on Norfolk Southern Railway.

Beginning. The idea for a soybean-based lubricant came out of the University of Northern Iowa’s ag-based Industrial Lubricants Research Program.

Funding was provided in part by USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.

The project began three years ago with pilot manufacturing plants on three farm sites where soybeans were picked and crushed. The meal was used for livestock feed and the oil to make grease.

Two of the farm sites used a room temperature grease-blending process while the third used a high temperature process to produce SoyTrak.

Blends. Both summer and winter blends are available, and an all-season blend is now being developed.

To ensure quality, researchers prepared and delivered component materials to the farm sites for blending.

The finished greases were then brought back to the research facility for batch testing and packaging.

Testing. Norfolk Southern’s Research and Test Department in Roanoke, Va., spent three years testing the grease to ensure it met the demanding requirements of freight railroads.

Norfolk Southern operates 21,500 miles in 22 states and is the nation’s largest rail carrier of automotive parts and finished vehicles.

SoyTrak is just one of several dozen new industrial lubricants, greases and base oils made from soybeans.


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