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Railway Age names Short Line, Regional Railroads of the Year

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Railway Age magazine Wednesday named Greenville & Western Railway Co. LLC the 2010 Short Line Railroad of the Year, and the Northern Plains Railroad its 2010 Regional Railroad of the Year. The awards will be presented at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday evening, May 4.

“This year’s two winners not only excelled despite economic turmoil; they found ways to take advantage of it and to prosper,” says Railway Age Publisher Robert P. DeMarco. “The award winners both had a vision and a plan, and not only reassured existing customers on their lines but actively courted new ones with strong marketing efforts. Combined with the cooperation and coordination with their respective Class I partners, the winners cultivated customer relationships, invested in infrastructure and property assets, and kept tabs on the growing market for ‘green’ growth, which the U.S. railroad industry is ideally positioned to leverage.”

Greenville, S.C.-based Greenville & Western Railway runs 12.74 miles through Anderson County; the company acquired the route from CSX in 2006, inheriting online traffic of fewer than 100 carloads annually. Intensive work on right-of-way, and a strategic purchase of 38.3 acres to encourage storage facilities for oil and ethanol products, helped propel the short line’s volume to 1,872 revenue carloads in 2009—an increase of 130% over a two-year period.

Besides being recognized by Railway Age, GRLW this year also is being honored by CSX Transportation at the Class I railroad’s 2010 Short Line Workshop for notching the largest percentage of growth, on a line-haul basis, between 2008 and 2009.

Fordville, N.D.-based Northern Plains Railroad, the 2010 Regional Railroad of the Year, began operations in 1997, currently leasing 388 miles of track in North Dakota and Minnesota from Canadian Pacific Railway. NPR is a key player in moving the region’s agricultural products, particularly grain, to market, positioning the railroad for potential ethanol market opportunities. But NPR’s “green” growth already includes wind energy component traffic, a joint business arrangement with Union Pacific Railroad. NPR interfaces with Canadian Pacific and with BNSF.

Mother Nature in 2009 didn’t reward NPR for its environmental efforts, however; extensive flooding during the spring of 2009 caused by the Red River forced the railroad to suspend service for 26 days and took a toll on revenue and customer service. Despite that, the regional railroad ended the year nearly equaling its carload traffic record, and the railroad anticipates resetting its record books this year.

Both Greenville & Western Railway, the Short Line Railroad of the Year, and the Northern Plains Railroad, the Regional Railroad of the Year, will be featured in Railway Age’s April 2010 issue.