Indiana Rail Road Co. and state officials Monday broke ground on a new $6 million locomotive maintenance center in the company’s Hiawatha Yard in Greene County.
The new facility will service up to four of the railroad’s 4,300-horsepower heavy-haul locomotives at once in a climate-controlled building that offers overhead cranes and a parts warehouse for a 20-person mechanical crew.
The new operation, just south of Jasonville, will replace a small 100-year-old facility constructed to service steam-powered locomotives.
“This is the largest single investment that we have ever made in one facility,” said Thomas G. Hoback, the railroad’s president, chief executive officer and founder.
Indiana Rail Road is investing $21 million for improvements this year, in its 25th year of operation, with an additional $44 million — at $11 million per year — slated for improvements through 2015.
The investment this year includes replacing “worn out rail, 34,000 cross-ties, replacing some bridges including one big bridge this year and expanding our main line signaling and rail traffic control systems that are activated from out dispatch center in Terre Haute,” Hoback said.
“We see a lot of business growth over the next five to 10 years. In the next five years alone, I am confident we will grow our business by 50 percent,” Hoback said.
The company expects to haul about 70 percent of coal from Peabody Coal Co.’s Bear Run mine near Dugger over the next five years. Indiana Rail Road built five miles of new track last year to serve the mine.
“We are working on more industrial development projects right now than we ever have at one time,” Hoback said. “We have another brand new mine [The Landree Mine owned by the Lily Group] that we will be starting to move trains from, just about three miles [from Jasonville] later this year, and we have another mine in Terre Haute that we expect to open up next year, so we think the coal boom for southwestern Indiana is very real and will be long-lived and provide a lot of good jobs for the area.”
Hoback said he could not provide further details on the possible new mine near Terre Haute.
Railroads are making a comeback as a fuel efficient and less polluting mode of transportation, Hoback said.
Railroads can move about one ton of material 500 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel, Hoback said, and emit less than 10 percent of hydrocarbons over an equal distance compared with a truck. Railroads are also three to five times more fuel efficient than trucks, he said.
“That has helped the railroads have this rebirth they have had in the last 20 years or so,” Hoback said. Railroads are a “technology that is around 200 years old, but keeps evolving,” he said.
Michael B. Cline, Indiana Department of Transportation commissioner, took part in the groundbreaking ceremony. A $5 million state grant enabled the railroad to install new rail lines near Dugger and expand traffic control systems at its Terre Haute dispatch center.
“It is seed money for them to create additional economic development with their company, so for us, it is the right business plan and partnership with Indiana Rail Road,” Cline said.
The 500-mile railroad, based in Indianapolis, is privately held, with CSX Transportation holding a majority interest. Indiana Rail Road has a full-time staff of 185. The company hauled the equivalent of more than 800,000 truckloads of consumer, industrial and energy products last year, far more than the 14,000 truckloads it hauled in its first year of operation in 1986.
Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or email@example.com.