Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rail Accomplishments

Well, here is an interesting piece of information. Norfolk-Southern, in 2010, has played a big role in industrial development and generated a lot of new jobs. Not bad for a years worth of work.

Out of 67 new industrial sites and 28 plant expansions, was even one in the Lexington area? Has Lexington industry added any new carloads to the more than 132,000 mentioned in the announcement? Were a few of those 2,000 jobs in the Central Kentucky area? I don’t think so.

It appears that roughly a third of those location and expansions dealt with alternative fuels production or distribution. I doubt that we will have any of those here as long as “Coal is King”. As for coal being hauled by rail, there are still many rail abandonment requests, in Kentucky, made annually. We talk of growing crops for bio-fuels and research on production, but I don’t see it moving very fast.

Lexington does have a growing industrial area on the north side, just where Citation will cross the N-S mainline and there were 2 new or expanded facilities placed in operation recently. Our very own Big Ass Fan Company, manufacturers of some of the largest industrial ventilation fans known, sits right along the rail line and nary a rail spur in sight. Will they be shipping everything by truck? God, I hope not.

Then, basically next door, we have the relocated Kentucky Eagle beer distributor who, I would think, could benefit from a rail spur also. Ironically, they moved from Angliana Ave. and direct access to the rail yard. We don’t brew this stuff here. It has to be shipped in from somewhere else and if it is not coming by rail (we know it can’t come by pipeline) then it must be by truck.

Our local factory for construction cranes, Link-Belt out on Palumbo Dr., removed their rail spur a few years ago but are in the expansion mode themselves They will be unveiling more of their telescoping crawlers in the near future. These must be shipping by truck as well. Thankfully, the industrial lead that is there services International Paper, Kentucky-Indiana Lumber and the Young warehouse complex on that road.

Lexington is losing some of their industrial customers, but that doesn’t mean that we have to lose the industrial spaces or facilities. Things like incandescent light bulbs are a thing of the past and maybe the existing building cannot be re-fitted to the newer technology, but whatever may replace the products/buildings could still use an efficient shipping/receiving mode that rail provides.

The railroads, or at least N-S, appear willing to assist in the work. Is our economic development effort working closely with them and others? I don’t see any evidence of it but I could be mistaken.

In terms of some positive railroad news, the R.. J. Corman rail group is working hard in the Rupp Arena parking lot with what looks like the anticipated boarding site of a Lexington version of the “Old Kentucky Dinner Train”. Honestly, I saw what appears to be drainage and sub-base work under the Oliver Lewis Bridge. As you can see here, we are looking back at the Arena with clearly some drains, set just wide enough for some tracks and at the lowest point of the earthworks. The alignment veers left and then back right and parallel to the parking lot pavement with just enough length for several cars while leaving the locomotive under the bridge.

Looking in the other direction it sweeps in a curve right into an existing track of the yard. This track has been the location of the unloading of the sand train, but it seems to have been shifted to the right in this photo.

I have also noticed that at the corner of W. Main and Oliver Lewis Way, they have leveled a spot for, probably, some corporate identity display. If it is similar to their display in Nicholasville, I would expect the current Corman boxcar and two locomotive shells, all decked out on a gorgeous red livery, set on rails to proudly proclaim that they are in Lexington to stay. This is not as exciting as an announcement about regional rail but if this will bring revenue service to Corman rail, then I am all for it

How nice would it be that, if next year, Lexington could be one of those N-S locations and the recipient of some of those jobs? Something to work for.

No comments: