NewsRail

Rail Roundup: August Class I headcount, Patriot Rail and New York short line acquisitions

Headcount at US Class I rail operations up year over year and sequentially in August

August Class I railroad headcount levels rise to their highest since December 2020

The number of workers employed by the U.S. operations of the Class I railroads is at its highest since December 2020, although totals are still below pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the Surface Transportation Board.

Headcount totaled 117,014 employees in August, a nearly 2.3% gain from August 2021 and a 0.5% increase from July 2022.

The train and engine category, which is more sensitive to changes in market demand, totaled 48,760 employees for August, a 3.5% increase year over year and a 1% increase sequentially. 

(Chart: Surface Transportation Board)

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Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroads take control of fellow New York short line railroad

Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroads (LA&L) of western New York has attained control of Ontario Midland Railroad, a company that operates more than 50 miles of track in New York’s Wayne and Monroe counties.

LA&L said it acquired 55% of Ontario Midland Railroad (OMD), enabling LA&L to now own or control four short line railroads. LA&L says OMD’s assets complement LA&L’s northwestern New York and Pennsylvania operations. 

Sodus, New York-headquartered OMD interchanges with CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) in Newark, New Jersey. The railroad serves food service, chemical and lumber shippers.

“We are excited to add the 52-mile OMD line to our existing network of more than 400 track miles,” said Jeff Bauman, vice president of marketing for LA&L and who will also serve as president of OMD. “During our due-diligence visits, we found a great team of well-trained employees, sound infrastructure and a solid business base of customers from which to continue the growth of this railroad.”

Terms for the deal weren’t disclosed, but LA&L said the Surface Transportation Board approved the acquisition. 

LA&L operates the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad, whose operations are located south of Rochester, New York; B&H Rail, serving areas northwest of Corning, New York; and Western New York & Pennsylvania, serving southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.

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Patriot Rail completes acquisition of Denver-based Pioneer Lines

Jacksonville, Florida-headquartered Patriot Rail now owns Denver-based Pioneer Lines.

Patriot sought to acquire Pioneer Lines, which operates 15 short line railroads, from BRX Transportation Holdings. The company recently received regulatory approval for the deal.

The acquisition increases Patriot Rail’s short line holdings from 16 to 31 railroads. Operations will span 23 states. 

“We are pleased to bring Pioneer Lines railroads into Patriot Rail,” Patriot Rail CEO John E. Fenton said in a news release. “Doubling our footprint across the U.S. furthers our commitment to exceed customer expectations as a best-in-class rail partner. Patriot Rail takes great pride in delivering value to our customers with safety always as our core foundation, and our expansion will drive deeper commercial and logistics relationships.”

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Network infrastructure provider Belden and rail cybersecurity firm Cylus to partner in new offering

St. Louis-based Belden and Israel-headquartered Cylus are partnering to develop a cybersecurity product for freight and passenger rail rolling stock and wayside signaling.

The companies say the product will be a “combination of next-gen firewall with first-to-market rail cybersecurity.” The product uses Belden’s firewall and supplements it with Cylus software in order to provide continuous monitoring and real-time protection for rolling stock and rail infrastructure, according to a Tuesday news release. 

The product also leverages existing hardware, which should help it be compliant with international rail safety and cybersecurity standards, and it can be utilized within new and existing rail technology environments, the companies said.

“As the rail industry continues to adopt automated, wireless and connected technologies — both trackside and onboard — the attack surface of critical assets is greatly expanding, exposing them increasingly to malicious cyber-attacks,” the news release said. “Rail operators must also contend with a shortage of physical space, legacy rail protocols without built-in security and dynamic network topologies — all of which pose challenges to safeguarding onboard and wayside rail and metro systems. Without proper cybersecurity, hacks have the potential to threaten rail safety, disrupt service and cause severe economic and reputational damage.”

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Wabtec signs MOU with Kazakhstan company to develop battery-electric technology for LNG locomotives

Pittsburgh-based Wabtec (NYSE: WAB) and Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) have signed a memorandum of understanding in which Wabtec will provide 150 FLXdrive battery-electric shunters to modernize KTZ’s fleet of liquid natural gas-powered locomotives. 

According to Wabtec, the FLXdrive shunters will be 100% battery powered, enabling KTZ to reduce fuel costs by approximately $75,000 per shunter per year, as well as reduce scheduled maintenance by up to 97%.

The deal also entails Wabtec providing NextFuel kits to KTZ in order to convert KTZ’s diesel locomotives to LNG and working to develop digital solutions for KTZ, including deploying Wabtec’s fuel efficiency product Trip Optimizer. 

Production will begin in 2024 at the LKZ facility in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan. 

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One Comment

  1. I sincerely hope that Patriot Rail actually inspected all the Pioneer Rail lines before this purchase and plans to make some major infrastructure investments. We’ve got Pioneer Rail lines near my house that haven’t seen a maintenance crew in years and it shows.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.