The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) has announced that Ann Arbor Railroad (AA), Delmarva Central Railroad (DCR), Railway Age’s 2020 Regional of the Year Honorable Mention, the Indiana Rail Road Company (INRD), and Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad (RBMN), Railway Age’s 2020 Regional of the Year, have taken home its annual Business Development Award.
To be considered for the award, ASLRRA said, a railroad must demonstrate one or more of the following: utilization of the railroad’s unique operating characteristics to deliver value; partnership with other development authorities, Class I’s or companies; delivering economic success to both the railroad and the community it serves.
For 2020, the following railroads were selected:
AA — The company’s analysis of the auto industry’s sales and production trends, coupled with the identification of an under-utilized facility in Toledo, Ohio, led to a partnership opportunity with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) to create a new distribution center for finished automobiles—the Silver Creek Vehicle Distribution and Homologation Center. Breaking ground in 2018, and beginning operations in time for the Jeep® Gladiator launch in July 2019, the facility supports FCA’s Toledo and Detroit assembly production with an 1,800-car through-put capacity per day, has created 102 new jobs and has helped stabilize the local economy.
DCR — Discussions with existing customers uncovered that certain liquid ingredients, vital to the manufacture of chicken feed, were being trucked in from beyond the Delmarva Peninsula. DCR approached the market leaders and partnered with these suppliers via long-term agreements to ship railcars of liquid feed ingredients to the eastern shore of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia for transloading at their previously acquired facility in Seaford, Del. Significant investments were made to the site to allow for the efficient handling of this new rail traffic that was a 100% conversion from long-haul trucks. The result has created long-term value for all stakeholders including the community by taking traffic off the road.
INRD — INRD forged a partnership with Indianapolis-based trucking company Venture Logistics to build a 406,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, rail-served distribution center in Indianapolis. The Venture Rail Warehouse, which features 58 truck docks and 15 indoor rail car spots, is the most modern rail-served facility in central Indiana. In 2017, the warehouse’s first full year of operation, INRD moved more than 1,200 carloads into the Venture Rail Warehouse. The rail business more than doubled to 2,600 carloads in 2019. The $21 million investment has allowed INRD to diversify, provided a much-needed modern facility in the logistics hub of Indianapolis, and will drive continued growth with a partner that was formerly considered solely a competitor.
RBMN — The railroad has continued to pursue its strategy of working closely with customers to provide unique transloading opportunities to grow current customer business, and to provide new customers with efficient rail service. RBMN opened two new transload facilities in 2019, in West Hazelton, and in Ransom, Penn. In addition, in 2019 RBMN brought the trucking piece of transloading in-house at all four of its transload locations. The addition of truck-loading services provides a competitive advantage over other operators, allowing for control of all aspects of the operation (rail, transloading/warehousing, and trucking), providing customers with a timely and seamless flow of goods and material. Collectively, transload efforts have resulted in nearly 900 carloads in 2019, contributing to the company’s overall carload traffic growth of 6%. RBMN handled a record-breaking 34,000-plus carloads in 2019.
“The Business Development Award recognizes the essence of the short line story—working closely with customers to deliver real value, excellent service and win-win opportunities,” said Chuck Baker, President, ASLRRA. “This year we had a record number of submissions, a testament to the ingenuity, flexibility and commitment that the short line industry shows again and again. In a year when Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) continued to transform the broader rail industry, these small business railroads found new ways to become indispensable partners in connecting their customers to the U.S. and world economies. Each of the 603 short line railroad operations in the country is unique, and these four award-winners demonstrate the best of how short lines grow with their customers.”