$5B in­ter­na­tional rail com­pany qui­etly chugs along in Con­necti­cut

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - Jim Cameron

You might not re­al­ize it, but Con­necti­cut is home to the world head­quar­ters of a $5 bil­lion in­ter­na­tional rail­road com­pany and you’ll never be able to ride on its trains.

In a small of­fice build­ing across from the Darien rail­road sta­tion sits the of­fices of Ge­ne­see & Wy­oming Inc, a “short line” and re­gional freight rail­road con­glom­er­ate. The rail­road, founded in 1899, still hauls salt on its orig­i­nal 14-mile track in up­state New York. G&W owns 120 rail­roads on three con­ti­nents, serv­ing 3,000 cus­tomers with more than 16,000 miles of track.

A “short-line” rail­road, as its name im­plies, only op­er­ates over short dis­tances, some­times thought of as rail freight’s first and last mile. They pick up box­cars and tankers at fac­to­ries and plants and carry them to junc­tion points where they hand them off to the ma­jor rail­roads, which carry them long dis­tance to their ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion, a jour­ney of­ten com­pleted by another short-line rail­road.

In the U.S., G&W’s rail­roads are as short as a sin­gle mile and as long as 739 miles. The com­pany op­er­ates 1,300 lo­co­mo­tives and 30,000 rail­cars. But they carry only freight, not pas­sen­gers.

Since the trains only travel short dis­tances, the com­pany is not look­ing for speed as much as cus­tomer ser­vice. Mov­ing along at 15 mph saves a lot on track main­te­nance.

How does G&W’s sales team sell com­pa­nies on ship­ping by rail in­stead of truck? Fuel costs. Trains are four times more en­ergy ef­fi­cient, a cru­cial con­sid­er­a­tion when you’re haul­ing tons of stone, coal or wheat in­stead of Ama­zon boxes filled with pack­ing peanuts.

G&W con­sis­tently re­ceives higher scores from ship­pers than truck­ing in cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­veys.

The G&W’s most lo­cal af­fil­i­ate, the Prov­i­dence & Worces­ter, runs a train on Metro-North tracks each night, haul­ing crushed rock from Con­necti­cut quar­ries to Queens, N.Y.

I can hear the train from my home, usu­ally just be­fore mid­night, as its lo­co­mo­tives rum­ble through town sound­ing noth­ing like Metro-North or Am­trak.

That’s about the only freight train left on the New Haven line. But that’s another story.

The G&W owns some much larger rail­roads over­seas that are also only ded­i­cated to freight. The com­pany runs trains, con­tainer ter­mi­nals and freight yards in the UK, Ger­many, Poland, Bel­gium and the Nether­lands.

Down un­der in Aus­tralia, the G&W owns 51 per­cent of a huge freight op­er­a­tion serv­ing the coal, iron ore and man­ganese mines and haul­ing in­ter­modal con­tain­ers through the desert-like in­te­rior.

How does a tiny, 20-per­son of­fice in Darien over­see such a mas­sive rail­road net­work around the planet? It doesn’t. Each of G&W’s nine op­er­at­ing re­gions is lo­cally man­aged with cap­i­tal al­lo­cated from head­quar­ters. Keep­ing the de­ci­sion-mak­ing close to the cus­tomers, not be­ing sec­ond-guessed from thou­sands of miles away, has been the key to G&W’s suc­cess.

But one thing that all of G&W’s rail­roads do share in com­mon is the color scheme of their lo­gos, orig­i­nally de­signed by Mil­ton Glaser. Ev­ery G&W rail­road’s logo is or­ange and black. Not just any or­ange, but Prince­ton or­ange, harken­ing back to its for­mer chair­man’s alma mater.

Con­trib­uted Photo

Ge­ne­see & Wy­oming Inc. com­bined its Utah Rail­way, with the Ari­zona East­ern Rail­way to form the com­pany’s Mountain West Re­gion.

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