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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Watco lands Potash Ridge deal; Chicago, Ft. Wayne & Eastern upgrades track


Watco Cos. LLC and Potash Ridge Corp. have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pertaining to a new loading facility and short line to serve the Blawn Mountain Project in southern Utah.

Watco will undertake the development, financing and operation of a short line connecting the project to a Union Pacific Railroad mainline near Milford, Utah, and a loading facility to handle sulphate of potash, sulphuric acid and alumina-rich products. A Canadian exploration and development company, Potash Ridge is developing a surface alunite deposit in southern Utah that's expected to produce a premium fertilizer called sulphate of potash and a possible alumina-rich material.

Initial work under the MOU would begin after the commencement of a feasibility study, subject to successfully raising additional financing, Watco and Potash Ridge officials said in a press release.

"We believe this project will be a complement to our existing operations in Utah and will help to build new relationships in the state," said Mark Blazer, Watco's senior vice president of strategic development.

Meanwhile, the Chicago, Ft. Wayne & Eastern Railroad (CFE) is completing a track improvement project to accommodate 40-mph train speeds across its entire 315-mile line from Tolleston, Ind., to Crestline, Ohio. The short line is owned by Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

To be completed by January's end, the project involves leveling and aligning nearly 50 track miles, replacing segments of rail and installing more than 10,000 new ties. The project will help alleviate freight-rail congestion in the Chicago area by creating an alternate route for trains going to and from the rail gateway, CFE officials said in a press release. After the project is completed, up to six additional eastbound freight trains will use the line daily, they said.

The additional trains — expected to carry crude oil, grain, general merchandise and other freight — will be operated by Norfolk Southern Railway, which retains operating rights over the line and dispatches all trains on the route.

There are more than 400 public and private grade crossings on the line, of which 213 already accommodate 40-mph train speeds. After the work is completed, train speed will be increased to 40 mph at another 221 crossings.

"This private-sector investment enhances an important piece of transportation infrastructure in Indiana and Ohio," said CFE President Chuck McBride. "By increasing the railroad’s capacity to transport freight, the improvement project benefits existing customers, and also makes the CFE corridor more attractive for potential new customers and economic development opportunities along the line."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/28/2015