Reading & Northern Railroad (R&N) broke its previous records for carloadings, freight revenue and excursion ticket sales.
Despite the rail freight industry’s declines, R&N had a 6% increase in carloadings. R&N ended the year hauling more than 34,000 carloads—a 2,000-carload increase from 2018. Revenues “were up by double digits as a result of changes in traffic mix and implementation of strategies to increase R&N length of hauls in order to reduce transit time for our customers.”
R&N noted that traffic numbers would have been even more robust if not for the loss of 1,000 carloads of export anthracite coal business. That reduction was more than offset by the fact that 20 existing on-line customers increased their rail business by over 10%.
Since R&N implemented its guaranteed service program offering every customer a guaranteed two-hour service window and five-day-a-week minimum service, R&N has met that schedule 99% of the time.
R&N expects its traffic numbers to increase in 2020, as a number of industrial development projects begin a full year of service. R&N had two significant new customers come on-line in 4Q at the Humboldt Industrial Park in Hazleton that will grow the carloadings substantially in 2020. There are a number of other industrial projects in the pipeline that should begin operation in mid-2020.
In addition, R&N has significantly grown its anthracite coal business by working with offline steel mills and its interline partner, Norfolk Southern Railroad. With more on-line coal facilities and production starting in 2020 and more steel mills signing up to receive Pennsylvania anthracite, R&N anticipates significant growth in the coal business for years to come.
Another area of big growth was R&N’s transloading and warehouse business. 2019 marked the first year in operation of R&N’s owned and operated warehouse in Ransom. Business exceeded expectations as many customers chose R&N to store and ultimately forward by rail or truck their goods. At year’s end, R&N also opened its new West Hazleton transload site.
R&N and its sister company, Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, increased its ridership in 2019 as more than 143,000 people used one of R&N’s passenger train offerings. This accomplishment is more noteworthy given that R&N shut down its LGSR operations in Jim Thorpe in November due to a tax dispute with the Borough’s council. While that issue remains unresolved, R&N is confident that its extensive passenger program will thrive in 2020 with new offerings and new equipment.
“We are committed to growing our business,” said Andy Muller, Jr., owner and CEO, R&N. “Growth is good for our employees, the communities we serve and the customers we service. In order to grow we must invest in our railroad and our employees and I will continue to plow our profits back into taking care of our employees and the railroad.”