Written by Andrew Corselli, Managing Editor for railwayage.com
Railway Age’s 2020 Short Line and Regional Railroads of the Year awards are the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) and Reading & Northern Railroad (R&N), respectively.
Delmarva Central Railroad Company (DCR) and Vermont Rail System (VRS), respectively, earned Short Line and Regional Honorable mentions.
Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA), Short Line of the Year
Since its founding in 1889, TRRA has been committed to providing cost-efficient transportation options to businesses and is a critical hub connecting the St. Louis region to national and international trade.
TRRA, which serves more than 80 industrial customers in the St. Louis region and provides interchange services to six Class I’s, plays a pivotal role in railroad operations and growth in the St. Louis metropolitan area. It currently operates six subdivisions: Merchants, Illinois Transfer, MacArthur Bridge, North Belt, West Belt and Eads. These lines interchange with BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern, CN and Kansas City Southern.
Not only does TRRA play a vital role as a short line connector, but it also is committed to creating a safety-first culture, ensuring regulatory compliance and meeting the needs of its customers, owners and the public.
“The TRRA and its employees are honored by this prestigious award and recognition,” said Asim S. Raza, Chief Legal Officer, Director of Corporate Affairs, TRRA. “The culture of innovation and collaboration are hallmarks of TRRA’s day-to-day operations which has allowed us to serve our customers, provide critical exchange services and ensure supply chain reliability for industries vital to the American economy. It is humbling to be recognized among many worthy peers for our continuing efforts to be a leader in the industry.”
Reading & Northern Railroad (R&N), Regional Railroad of the Year
R&N, with its corporate headquarters in Port Clinton, Pa., is a privately held railroad company serving more than 70 customers in nine eastern Pennsylvania counties (Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Wyoming). It has expanded its operations over the past 30-plus years and now handles more than 34,000 carloads of freight and 140,000 excursion train riders over 400 miles of track.
R&N operates both freight services and steam- and diesel-powered excursion passenger services, owns almost 1,300 freight cars and employs nearly 300. It has repeatedly been honored as one of the premier Class II railroads in the nation, having also earned Railway Age’s Regional Railroad of the Year three other times (2002, 2011 and 2015).
R&N Owner and CEO Andy Muller, Jr. capped his nearly 40-year railroad career with the Feb. 4 opening of the Nesquehoning Bridge. This $14 million bridge—a public/private partnership between the Commonwealth of PA and R&N, with R&N contributing $4 million—had been a dream of Muller’s for more than 20 years. It connects the railroad’s Reading and Lehigh Divisions, “allowing for progressive, expedited moves between Reading and the Scranton area.”
“On behalf of the 200-plus employees of the Reading & Northern and the many contractors who helped us build the Nesquehoning Bridge, I want to thank Railway Age for this great honor,” said Wayne A. Michel, President, R&N. “Reading & Northern strives for greatness, but we do so not to win awards or recognition. We do so because we have to earn our customers’ business every day. And to win the business we constantly have to be improving our service and offering new service. The Nesquehoning Bridge will enable us to improve service for many of our customers and it will open up new business opportunities for the region we serve and call home.”
Delmarva Central Railroad Company (DCR), Short Line Honorable Mention
In 2019, DCR invested significantly into the continued turnaround of critical infrastructure by investing more than $5 million into track, bridges, signals and locomotives. A total of seven grade crossings were rehabilitated (more than 40 rehabilitated since 2017), and more than 30,000 ties were installed (more than 70,000 ties since 2017), including the rehabilitation of 15 miles of former Bay Coast Railroad operated by DCR on behalf of Canonie Atlantic Co.
The operating plan resulted in significantly decreased dwell times and encouraged customers to return to rail.
Vermont Rail System (VRS), Regional Railroad Honorable Mention
VRS “became the glue that held New England railroading together in early 2020.” The combination of Canadian First Nation blockades coupled with the Pan Am Southern Hoosac Tunnel collapse forced multiple railroads to look for alternate routes to keep traffic fluid. VRS, literally within hours of the tunnel collapse, had established a detour route for Pan Am traffic between Hoosick Jct., N.Y., and Bellows Falls, Vt., to allow important east-west traffic the ability to continue moving.
The detours were handled around the clock, with extra VRS crews coming from management sources, including the company Vice President, Selden Houghton, who was right in the grind at all hours running trains in an engineer role.