Outbound anthracite: 300 tons of coal shipped from new railroad siding
RANSHAW - It took a truck about 10 seconds to dump 25 tons of anthracite coal into a rail car Tuesday at the PA Rail Transloading site along Route 901.
A few moments later, a second truck dumped its load, and two more trucks were en route to do the same.
A total of 300 tons of buck-, pea- and nut-sized coal were expected to be trucked to the company's rail siding and loaded into three rail cars between Tuesday and today.
When the train pulls out today, it will mark the first shipment of a customer's commodity from the newly updated rail site.
A partnership between businessman Ken Deitrick and North Shore Railroad, which operates the Shamokin Valley rail line, resulted in construction of the 2,000-foot siding. PA Rail is charged with loading the cars, while North Shore markets the service.
It's the product of a $1 million project announced in 2010 that, in addition to the siding, includes a 1,500-foot runaround.
"This site is going to be for anthracite coal outbound and clean wood waste inbound for landscape mulch for TimberEnd," said Fred Heimbaugh, of PA Rail, referencing a wood-processing company also owned by Deitrick that remains under development.
Seven employees were hired to run PA Rail's siding, he said.
The coal is being shipped to a foundry in the South on behalf of the Muncy firm Keystone Filler and Manufacturing Co.
Brothers David W. II and Adam Pfleegor, of Keystone Filler, say they expect to ship between three and five rail cars of anthracite each month from the Coal Township site to customers across the country.
Keystone Filler is purchasing its coal at mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including in Mount Carmel, Hazleton and Tamaqua. Rather than trucking it to its Muncy facility, the Pfleegors say they can save up to 10 percent by shipping from PA Rail. It especially makes sense for customers not in Northeastern U.S.
"This facility is really nice for us because it is in coal country and it helps and saves money for us," said Adam Pfleegor.
"When you're getting outside a 500-mile radius is where you really want to start utilizing rail," said David Pfleegor II.
The siding, which is level to the top of a rail car, is capable of allowing 10 rail cars to be loaded at once. In the case of coal, dump trucks pull up and drop their load directly into a rail car.
Heimbaugh says it's much easier than at other sites where coal is dumped on the ground and than loaded with heavy equipment. It saves on time and labor, cuts down on breakage of the product and helps prevent rocks and soil from being mixed in.
He wasn't sure when coal was last transloaded at the site. The last records in their possession says 1910, but Heimbaugh wasn't so sure.
Deitrick said the transloading facility hadn't operated since at least 1972 when Hurricane Agnes flooded the area.
More customers are being sought to utilize the rail siding, although it appears any dealings in the natural gas industry are out. Some firms connected to natural gas explored the possibility, but found it's too far from the natural gas fields that populate the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.
Situated where it is, however, PA Rail has its main focus on coal and wood.