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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Minding the store: Riverport Railroad broadens marketing horizons, builds car-storage business

Riverport Railroad L.L.C. is trying to change its reputation as a rail-car-storing-only short line. But that doesn't mean the railroad is neglecting its bread-and-butter business.

Last month, Burlington Northern Santa Fe moved a fertilizer unit train comprising more than 70 cars from Florida to Riverport's yard in Savannah, Ill. The 68-mile short line then stored the loaded cars, and staged them as single- or up to 10-car consists to enable BNSF to deliver loads to various Midwestern customers.

Riverport and BNSF officials spent four months arranging the deal, which could attract more unit-train business from the Class I, as well as other railroads, says Riverport General Manager Tom Kamper.

"The key is we can serve as a point in the Midwest to store and stage the cars, and interchange in a timely manner so BNSF doesn't have to run the cars all across the country," he says.

Although Riverport completed more than 7,000 switches last year while storing and staging cars, the railroad plans to increase business by marketing a full slate of services.

The short line began operations in 1999 at a former U.S. Army base, which was de-commissioned and closed in 2000. Initially, Riverport could only offer car-storage services as the Army slowly transferred its ownership of base properties; now, the railroad offers transportation, warehousing, transloading and car-repair services (Rescar Cos. owns and operates the repair facility).

"We like to say around here that we want to be like a railroad mall, offering a one-stop shop," says Kamper.

The short line also has access to 1,200 acres of land at the former Army base, which eventually will be re-developed into rail-served industries and warehouses, he says, adding that the railroad's location away from large, congested cities is a marketing plus.

"There's no urban sprawl here — we're about a two-hour drive from Chicago," says Kamper.

Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/8/2004