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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Canadian short line's paper business on a roll since partnering with shipper


During the past five years, the Southern Railway of British Columbia's (SRY) newsprint and specialty paper business has increased more than 500 percent because of a water-to-rail distribution partnership with shipper NorskeCanada.

In 1997, the 62-mile short line began working with NorskeCanada to consolidate paper shipments at a distribution center with access to several Class Is. The center receives products via barge from four paper mills located within a 100-mile radius. Paper then is shipped from the center via truck, intermodal or rail.

"Our goal from day one was to secure a greater share for rail," said SRY Director of Business Development Frank Butzelaar in a prepared statement.
"NorskeCanada was very upfront, they wanted to ship more by rail. However, the variability in rail-car quality made it difficult for them to do so."

SRY formed an operating plan designed to provide NorskeCanada three daily switches, with a fourth switch available with 24 hours notice.

"When you're loading between 39 and 52 cars a day on three or four switches, the timing of those switches and the quality of the rail cars supplied for loading becomes critical to your success," said Butzelaar.

NorskeCanada and SRY officials also worked with car lessors and builders to develop a cushioned, high-capacity box car designed to prevent damage to delicate cargo, such as lightweight-coated and directory paper, and newsprint. SRY's current fleet of 884 of box cars include 400 featuring seamless side and end walls to protect paper from friction damage. Now, SRY's paper carloads have increased from 1,600 to more than 8,500.

"By addressing car-supply issues, we have reduced product damage and converted a lot of the truck volume over to rail," said Butzelaar. "We are currently working with Class Is to find ways to shorten transit times — this is the next great opportunity for rail."