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Railway Age names 2009 Short Line, Regional Railroads

Written by Douglas John Bowen

Railway Age magazine has named Wilmington, Calif.-based Pacific Harbor Line, Inc. 2009 Short Line Railroad of the Year, and the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. 2009 Regional Railroad of the Year. The awards will be presented at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nev., April 25-28.

“This year’s two winners have leveraged energy savings and environmental advantages to best effect among many quality candidates nominated, ” says Railway Age Publisher Robert P. DeMarco. “The award winners took a proactive stance to maximize those advantages, including strong marketing to customers, ongoing customer service, effective asset utilization, wise capital investments, and teamwork within their organization and with connecting roads. Given ongoing economic conditions, both also engaged in active discussion and cooperation with government officials at the local, regional, state, and/or federal level—communications that may matter a great deal in trying times.”

Since 1998, the winning short line, Pacific Harbor Line, has served the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two busiest container ports by volume in North America. PHL operates 75 miles of track owned by the two ports, serving nine on-dock intermodal terminals and numerous carload customers. It exchanges nearly two million on-dock TEUs each year with Class I railroads BNSF and Union Pacific, and about 36,000 carloads, reducing the strain on the Los Angeles basin’s overloaded highway system.

But PHL, in cooperation with its port partners and three government agencies, and aided financially by parent Anacostia & Pacific Co., Inc., has pushed its environmental advantage beyond just volume. It now boasts a fleet of 22 new or renewed low-emission and GenSet switcher locomotives that meet, or exceed, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tier 2 and Tier 3 standards. On Oct. 7, 2008, PHL earned EPA’s 2008 SmartWay Environmental Excellence Award, the only railroad among 27 companies recognized.

For Regional Railroad of the Year Wisconsin & Southern, it’s the company’s second time being so honored; the Milwaukee-based operation also garnered Railway Age’s 2001 Regional Railroad of the Year. In 2002, WSOR won the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s Marketing Award.

WSOR didn’t rest on any laurels, however; the railroad has attracted 32 new customers to its system in the past five years, nearly 20% of its current customer base, and even added new customers as the nation’s economy deteriorated during 2008.

WSOR, founded in 1980, operates 700 miles of track in south central Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois, much of it owned by the state of Wisconsin. The regional railroad interchanges with six Class I railroads and numerous other short lines and terminal operators. It has been a tireless advocate for upgraded freight rail infrastructure throughout the state, speaking for all of Wisconsin’s short line and regional railroad needs, and in the state capitol hallways in Madison, Wis., articulating the economic and environmental advantages freight rail service offers the Badger State.

WSOR transports a range of products including lumber, coal, liquid and dry fertilizers, corn, beans, plastic, aggregates, ethanol, and liquid petroleum.

Both PHL, the Short Line Railroad of the Year, and WSOR, the Regional Railroad of the Year, will be featured in Railway Age’s April 2009 issue.

Railway Age is the transportation industry’s oldest trade magazine, and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2006.

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