Editor’s note: While Trans Rail Holdings has filed to effectively change the New England Central Railroad’s moniker to Merrimack & Grafton Railroad, there is yet any official acceptance of that change. Thus we will continue to refer to NEGS by its legacy name.
Vermont Rail System has a long track record of drumming up new business and breathing new life into sleepy rail lines. What business might they find on the New England Southern?
Previous new business that Vermont Rail System has established on its lines has included transload for propane, road salt, heating oil, calcium carbonate and other commodities. One might reasonably suppose VRS could develop these commodity networks onto their new line.
No stranger to rail
Historically the big shipper on the White Mountain Branch had been the large paper mill in Lincoln at the end of the line, but that mill has been closed and demolished for many years now.
Currently, only 3M’s Specialty Papers mill in Tilton utilizes NEGS regularly. That, irregular project movements (such as ties for the soon-to-commence surface upgrade on the WML), and mobilizing the the New Hampshire National Guard for distant exercises are NEGS’ primary occupations. With an energized marketing program, and access to more equipment, will VRS be able to find more? Here are some opportunities:
Prospects: propane, aggregate, salt, etc.
A number of small propane dealers are nearby, also several ski areas, (which use propane to power snow making). Shortening the truck haul seems like an opportunity for road salt to this area which now comes from Granite State Minerals/International Salt in Portsmouth NH. Calcium cabonate is used to clear dirt roads, which constitute a substantial proportion of road mileage in the area. Heating oil currently comes mostly from Portsmouth, which would require routing far south through Lowell MA. But Boston-area terminals might leverage direct rail access to Lowell to competitively serve central NH energy markets.
Interstate 93 runs closely parallel to the White Mountain line, and its lanes are often slowed by dump trailers filled with sand and stone. Logs move are trucked south from Maine and Quebec. Wood chips fire biomass power plants in Plymouth, Whitefield, and Berlin. Sand pits are plentiful along the route. Neither wood chips nor aggregate is traditionally very lucrative for rail and sometimes these contracts have not been long-term. Nevertheless there are other railroads — including VRS lines — that have succeeded in these markets.
Potential shippers/receivers near the White Mountain Branch line, north of Concord (not an exhaustive list):
Lincoln Bundy Mfg
Lincoln Hobo Railroad & Shop
Woodstock Woodstock sand & Gravel
Thornton Benton Enterprises Gravel Pit
Thornton log yard
Campton Ed Hoyt Logs & Vaneer
Campton Redimix Co – with sandpit on site
Campton Campton Sand & Gravel
Plymouth Construx – sand pit
Plymouth Bridgewater Power Co
Ashland Rochester Shoe Tree Co.
Meridith Middleton Building Supply
Laconia Dudle & Sons Oil Co (derelict siding)
Laconia Cooper Products
Laconia Mills Industries
Laconia Boulia Gorrell Lumber
Laconia Hebert Foundry & Machine
Laconia Stafford Co Oil
Tilton Liberty Utilities
Northfield Rhymes Propane & Oil
Northfield Amerigas propane (has siding)
Canterbury Dumpster Depot (garbage hauler)
Concord Concord Monitor newspaper/printer
Christopher has 15 years of railroad experience, starting as a Conductor on Cape Cod and 15 years of public policy advocacy and outreach work. Christopher is Executive Director of Vermont Rail Action Network, communicating the vision of better trains to elected and government officials, community leaders and the public. Christopher is a consultant for freight and passenger planning and development projects including operating planning, federal grant applications, marketing, and public outreach.