A record-break­ing year

Lo­cal rail­road car­ried 9,453 car­loads, a 10.3% in­crease

The Times-Tribune - - LOCAL - BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK STAFF WRITER

The lo­cal freight rail­road au­thor­ity de­mol­ished its year-old record for haul­ing car­loads with a per­for­mance that topped even na­tional trends.

The Penn­syl­va­nia North­east Re­gional Rail­road Au­thor­ity, through its sys­tem op­er­a­tor, the Delaware-lack­awanna Rail­road, car­ried 9,453 car­loads in 2018, up from 8,572 car­loads a year ear­lier, a 10.3 per­cent in­crease.

Across the coun­try, U.S. car­load traf­fic last year to­taled more than 13.6 mil­lion, up 1.8 per­cent from a year ear­lier, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­can Rail­roads, which tracks rail­road freight traf­fic.

“It was a good year,” au­thor­ity Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Larry Mal­ski said. “It was a re­ally good year.”

The au­thor­ity owns and op­er­ates 100 miles of track in Lack­awanna and Mon­roe coun­ties, and the Delaware-lack­awanna has op­er­ated on its tracks since Au­gust 1993. Traf­fic grew to the 2017 level from 6,526 car­loads in 2016, a 31.4 per­cent in­crease and set­ting the just-bro­ken record.

The big driver for the lo­cal rail­road re­mained Linde Corp. and its Car­bon­dale Transload op­er­a­tion for dis­tribut­ing frack­ing sand in Car­bon­dale. Drillers use the sand in hy­draulic frac­tur­ing, the process used to re­lease trapped Mar­cel­lus Shale nat­u­ral gas.

Last year, Linde brought in 3,257 car­loads com­pared to 2,740 in 2017, an 18.9 per­cent boost.

“It’s 90 per­cent of our (haul­ing) busi­ness,” Linde pres­i­dent and owner Scott Linde said, cred­it­ing the rail­road au­thor­ity for de­vel­op­ing the abil­ity to bring in 100 car­loads of sand at a time. “All we do is take it out of the cars and put it on a truck.”

The sand im­ports keep the rail yards’ 15 to 20 em­ploy­ees busy, he said.

“We do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

The lo­cal rail­road’s other big growth came from Ar­dent Mills, a flour pro­cess­ing plant in Mount Po­cono, Mon­roe County, with traf­fic up to 3,871 car­loads from 3,666, a 5.6 per­cent in­crease; Best­way, a lum­ber ship­per in Cresco, Mon­roe County, up to 661 car­loads from 563, 17.4 per­cent in­crease; Key­stone Propane in Toby­hanna, Mon­roe County, up to 369 car­loads from 326, up 13.2 per­cent; Gen­eral Dy­nam­ics, in Scran­ton, up to 73 car­loads from 40, an 82.5 per­cent in­crease; and Val­ley Dis­tribut­ing, a ware­house in South Scran­ton, up to 280 car­loads from 127, a 120.5 per­cent in­crease.

“Ev­ery­thing is up,” said Dave Blount, a spokesman for the Delaware-lack­awanna. “It’s not just wheat and grain and sand. Plas­tics is up, lum­ber is up, propane is up. The econ­omy is good re­gard­less of who you want to be­lieve among the mo­rons in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.”

Bar­ring the un­fore­seen, Blount ex­pects the num­bers to keep ris­ing this year, at least par­tially be­cause of the frack­ing sand.

“Gas is big in a lot of the north­east quad­rant of Penn­syl­va­nia and will be many more years to come,” he said.

Con­tact the writer: bkrawcze­[email protected] timessham­rock.com; 570-348-9147; @Bo­rys­bloott on Twit­ter

MON­DAY UP­DATE brings Times-tri­bune read­ers up to date on past or pend­ing sto­ries of in­ter­est. To of­fer a sug­ges­tion for a Mon­day Up­date, please email [email protected]­rock.com with “Mon­day Up­date” in the sub­ject line.

JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Train cars travel through the Steam­town site in Scran­ton on Jan. 10.

JAKE DANNA STEVENS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Train cars are seen near 701 Wyoming Ave. in Scran­ton on Jan. 10.

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