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Rail News: M&A

Watco launches 10th short line after acquiring BNSF lines in Montana


Today, The Watco Cos. Inc. will begin operating its 10th short line, the Mission Mountain Railroad (MMT). The new short line will operate two Montana lines totaling 40 track miles, which Watco recently acquired from Burlington Northern Santa Fe though a lease and purchase agreement.

MMT's north line runs between Eureka and Stryker; the south line runs between Columbia Falls and Kalispell. The short line will interchange with BNSF in Stryker and Columbia Falls, moving primarily forest products and grain for 12 shippers. Watco officials expect MMT to move more than 9,000 carloads during its first year.

"The Mission Mountain Railroad is a great addition to our operations in the Pacific Northwest," said Watco Chief Executive Officer Rick Webb in a prepared statement, adding that the short-line holding company already operates railroads in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. "By providing, quality, dependable, safe and affordable service, we believe rail transportation in the Mission Mountain area can add value to local businesses and make Montana products more competitive in the national and world markets."

Watco — which owns and operates nine other short lines operating in 23 states — named Norm Brown general manager of MMT. During the past eight years, he has served Watco's Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad in various capacities.