Short Line Railroads Roar Back to Life in Marcellus Region

The renaissance in short line railroads because of shale gas drilling continues. Information from a panel presentation at the recent Pennsylvania Rail Freight Seminar brings us this news:

The Lycoming Valley Railroad (LVRR), located in the Williamsport area, serves numerous companies involved in Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration. In the last few years, carload totals on the LVRR have increased by 59%. The parent company, North Shore Railroad, has increased employment by 21%.

Like the Lycoming Valley line, the Wellsboro & Corning (W&C) Railroad is a great example of energy-related growth opportunities for the rail industry. The number of tracks at W&C’s Wellsboro junction has grown from one to four, and two more are planned. A siding built to accommodate two carloads of frac sand has been expanded for 24 carloads. Silos have been constructed to hold the sand being brought in, and the company started a shuttle to transport water from a municipal facility to tanks where it is stored before being needed in gas drilling processes. Recently, and for the first time in 25 years, the W&C transported shipments outbound from Wellsboro ? drill cuttings, i.e., rock and soil brought to the surface as drilling occurs.

Growth on the 35.5-mile line has been “…staggering…” according to W.B. Myles, the firm’s chief operating officer. Energy-related traffic on the W&C grew steadily from 2009 through 2011, and this year traffic is up by more than 290% from a year ago.*

And this startling statistic about the growth of rail shipping for the Marcellus gas industry from non other than Norfolk Southern:

As Norfolk Southern’s (NS) System Manager for Short Line Marketing, Chris Spiceland has taken a broad look at the impact of natural gas on the rail industry. His company, a Class I railroad, connects to over 240 short lines. In 2011, NS transported over 44,000 carloads of Marcellus-related product. Of that amount, about 31,000 originated on short lines, a figure which had been less than 5,000 as recently as 2009 and near zero in 2008.*

From zero to 31,000 carloads of Marcellus-related product coming from short line railroads in the span of three years. Amazing! Behold the power of Marcellus Shale gas.

* (May 30, 2012) – Natural Gas Industry Offers Great Promise for Short Line Railroads