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The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) yesterday recognized four railroads with its Business Development Award.
The awards annually recognize member railroads for outstanding business development efforts aimed at growing short-line business, ASLRRA officials said in a press release.
To be considered for the award, a railroad must demonstrate one or more of the following: utilization of the railroad's unique operating characteristics to deliver value; partnership with other development authorities, Class Is or companies; and delivering economic success to both the railroad and the community it serves.
This year, the association received a record number of submissions covering partnerships for new business growth, facility investment and creative growth activities with currently served industries and customers, ASLRRA officials said.
"In a year when precision scheduled railroading continued to transform the broader rail industry, these small business railroads found new ways to become indispensable partners in connecting their customers to the U.S. and world economies," said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker. "Each of the 603 short-line railroad operations in the country is unique, and these four award winners demonstrate the best of how short lines grow with their customers."
This year's winners are:• Ann Arbor Railroad. Its analysis of the auto industry's sales and production trends, coupled with the identification of an under-used facility in Toledo, Ohio, led to a partnership opportunity with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to create the Silver Creek Vehicle Distribution and Homologation Center, a new distribution facility for finished automobiles. The center, which opened in 2019, supports Fiat Chrysler's Toledo and Detroit assembly production with an 1,800-car through-put capacity per day.• Delmarva Central Railroad. Discussions with existing customers uncovered certain liquid ingredients that are vital to the manufacture of chicken feed were being trucked in from beyond the Delmarva Peninsula. Delmarva Central approached market leaders and partnered with these suppliers via long-term agreements to ship rail cars of the ingredients to the eastern shore of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia for transloading at their previously acquired facility in Seaford, Delaware. Significant investments were made to the site to allow for the efficient handling of the new rail traffic that was a 100 percent conversion from long-haul trucks.• The Indiana Rail Road Co. The railroad forged a partnership with trucking Venture Logistics to build a 406,000-square-foot, rail-served distribution center in Indianapolis. The Venture Rail Warehouse, which features 58 truck docks and 15 indoor rail-car spots, is the "most modern rail-served facility in central Indiana," ASLRRA officials said. The rail business more than doubled to 2,600 carloads in 2019. The $21 million investment has allowed Indiana Rail Road to diversify, providing a much-needed modern facility in the region that will drive continued growth with a partner formerly considered solely a competitor.• Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad. The railroad has continued to pursue its strategy of working closely with customers to provide unique transloading opportunities, grow customer business and provide new customers with efficient rail service. The railroad opened two new transload facilities in 2019, as well as brought the trucking aspect of transloading in-house at all four of the transload locations. The addition of truck-loading services provides an advantage over other operators, allowing for control of all aspects of the operation. Collectively, transload efforts resulted in nearly 900 carloads last year, contributing to the company's overall carload traffic growth of 6 percent. The railroad handled a record 34,000 carloads in 2019.