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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Reading & Northern reports growth for 2020

The Nesquehoning Bridge Phase 2 connects R&N’s Reading and Lehigh divisions.
Photo – Reading & Northern Railroad


Reading & Northern Railroad (R&N) posted growth in carloads and revenue in 2020, despite facing the challenges of the pandemic, the Port Clinton, Pennsylvania-based railroad announced yesterday.

During the year, the regional hauled over 34,000 carloads — a "slight increase" — and a near 4% increase in revenue compared with 2019's levels, R&N officials said in a press release.

Coal business increased in tonnage and revenue. And although the company's export business was down in part due to foreign exchange rates, its strategy of developing rail-truck facilities throughout the Midwest and Southeast to handle anthracite for steel mills led to an increase in business, R&N officials said.

"We expect that business to increase significantly in 2021 as additional steel-making capacity comes on line," they said.

Another area of growth last year was the transloading and warehouse business, boosted in part by a demand for warehousing of raw materials as a result of the pandemic. That trend resulted in a 54% increase in carloads moving to the company's warehouse in Ransom. In addition, 2020 was the first full year of operation for the regional's steel coil transload site in West Hazleton.

The completion of industrial development projects — Iris USA in the Humboldt Industrial Park and Crossroads Beverage near Reading — resulted in new rail business starting in June 2020. Both companies are expected to continue ramping up production and the shipping of inbound plastics by rail during 2021, R&N officials said.

Although the pandemic prompted R&N to suspend passenger-rail service during the height of the pandemic, service resumed June 27, 2020, with coronavirus protocols in place, including the addition of rail cars to allow for social distancing. Railroad officials are hopeful that they'll be able to proceed with a full slate of passenger service this year, they said.

Also last year, R&N invested in capital assets, including the purchase of 143 rail cars for anthracite coal service, 17 locomotives from Norfolk Southern Railway, a welded rail train and over 34,000 ties. Moreover, R&N opened the Nesquehoning rail bridge over the Lehigh River; the railroad invested $4 million in the project.

Although 2020 was a challenging year, R&N was able to stay focused on its customers, keep employees safe, and thrive, said Chief Executive Officer Andy Muller Jr.

"I am committed to our employees and our communities and I will continue to invest money into the railroad so we can continue to grow for years to come," he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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