GBW Railcar Services uncouples

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Greenbrier Cos. Inc. and Watco Cos. LLC have agreed to discontinue their GBW Railcar Services (GBW) railcar repair joint venture, formed in 2014 by combining their shops into a nationwide network of railcar repair facilities. Under the agreement, the repair shops and employees at each location will return to management by their previous operators.

“The plan enables both Greenbrier and Watco to better capitalize on current trends in North America’s railcar repair market, meeting demand for railcar repair services within their respective business models,” Greenbrier said. “The venture was intended to address booming demand for tank cars in crude by rail service, including tank car retrofits. That market never fully materialized.”

Through dissolution, the assets and employees of 12 shops return to Greenbrier and those of 14 shops return to Watco. Four Greenbrier mobile shops will be transferred to Watco. Greenbrier Rail Services Senior Vice President Wheels & Parts Rick Turner will manage the shops returned to Greenbrier. Turner has been in the railcar aftermarket business for nearly 25 years, with primary responsibility for Greenbrier’s 12 wheel shops and parts businesses. He has served on the Board of Directors of GBW since its formation.

“Turner and his team have a deep familiarity with the operations and customer base of the repair shops,” Greenbrier said. “Their objective will be to return Greenbrier’s railcar repair operations to profitability.”

“A wholly owned and smaller network of railcar repair shops strengthens Greenbrier’s integrated business model, in which new railcar design, engineering, manufacturing, sales and leasing is supported by aftermarket products and services,” Greenbrier said. “Greenbrier owns a railcar lease fleet of more than 8,500 railcars and provides fleet management services to owners of more than 368,000 railcars. Railcars in the owned and managed fleets receive approximately 175,000 repair and maintenance hours per year. With its return to sole ownership of its former repair shops, Greenbrier is positioned to offer strategic access to railcar repair and maintenance services to Greenbrier’s customers.”

“One of the main reasons GBW was formed was to provide capacity to service, recertify and retrofit North America’s tank car fleet,” said Watco CEO Rick Webb, who is GBW’s current operations leader. “For a variety of reasons, tank car services and retrofits never materialized in the volumes anticipated by Watco and Greenbrier at the time we formed GBW. The current arrangement is the best course of action. Greenbrier has been a great partner since 2014 and will continue to be a valued customer and supplier.”

Greenbrier Chairman and CEO William A. Furman said, “Watco is one of the world’s finest short line railroads, port and terminal operators. We have had an excellent multi-decade relationship with Watco, and have enjoyed many synergies together. That will not change. We thank Watco for their partnership at GBW. And, we welcome our returning and new Greenbrier employees. We also look forward to maintaining our close relationship with Watco and will explore new opportunities to collaborate in other areas to serve the needs of our customers.”

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