Tuesday, February 04, 2014

For R&N, another growth year

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Port Clinton, Pa.-based Reading & Northern Railroad says 2013 was the most successful year in its 30-year history. The regional railroad—twice named Railway Age’s Regional Railroad of the Year since 2000—grew its carload business by more than 14%. Its overall traffic, which included export coal business, was up almost 9%.

“This growth far outpaces the growth of other short line and regional railroads this year, which was about 5%,” notes owner/founder and CEO Andrew Muller. “Although the export market for anthracite coal was weak in 2013, our railroad showed double-digit gains in domestic coal movements and merchandise, which includes woodpulp, paper, metals, food products, plastics, and frac sand for Marcellus Shale drilling.”

In terms of industrial development in 2013, R&N opened two new rail terminals to handle inbound metals for local customers. “These new facilities took significant truck traffic off the roads and helped support the local industries depending on this business, which employ 1,200 people in Schuylkill and Luzerne counties,” Muller says. “We also continued our unique practice of investing in off-line coal terminals by partnering with a terminal on the Ohio River to increase the movement of anthracite coal by barges.”

R&N is currently working on at least four industrial development site searches along its system, and has recently rehabilitated its rail infrastructure to provide service to the newly expanding Cambridge Lee manufacturing facility in Leesport, which employs approximately 400 people in Berks County.

Overall, the R&N serves 41 on line customers that provide jobs for more than 8,000 people.”Our railroad gets high marks for customer service because we run a scheduled railroad,” says Muller. “We provide each customer with a two-hour service window, and in 2013 our ontime performance was 98%.”

In 2013, the R&N embarked on an “unprecedented” capital expenditure program. “Our philosophy is to buy when other people are selling,” says Muller. “We are doing very well and now is the perfect time to reinvest in our railroad.”

“In 2013 we purchased and installed 35,000 ties,” said R&N President Wayne Michel. “We also purchased four locomotives, 105 coal cars, a number of trucks and electric cars for our fleet, and a prime piece of industrial property near our headquarters for potential development. All of these purchases were made with future growth in mind.”

Reading & Northern, with corporate headquarters in Port Clinton, is a privately held company serving major businesses in nine Eastern Pennsylvania counties (Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, and Wyoming). It also offers steam-powered passenger excursions. The railroad runs about 320 miles from Reading to Mehoopany and also operates a seven-mile line from Towanda to Monroeton in Bradford County. In 2012, the railroad entered into an agreement with CAN DO to purchase the rail assets of Humboldt Industrial Park in Hazleton, the region's largest rail-served industrial park. R&N, which currently employs more than 150, is scheduled to take over service to Humboldt in 2017, at the latest.