Railex plans unveiled at PMA
November 14, 2005
by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar
By April or May, an innovative transportation option will be in place for Washington state's grower-shippers, allowing fresh produce to travel from that state to New York in five days by refrigerated rail car.
The new service, provided by Railex LLC, will move perishable commodities by a 55-car train. Each of the new 64-foot refrigerated boxcars will carry the equivalent of four truckloads, and the high-speed travel time will be achieved by keeping the train intact and moving non-stop from its loading point in Wallula, WA, to its destination in Albany, NY.
According to Paul Esposito, vice president of logistics and strategic planning for AMPCO Distribution Services Management LLC, the much-needed service is the culmination of an agreement among his company, which is the parent company of Railex, and key players Union Pacific Railroad and CSX Transportation.
Union Pacific provides the rail lines linking 23 states, and along with Jacksonville, FL-based CSX will operate the dedicated produce unit train.
Railex, which was formed earlier this year as a division of longstanding AMPCO, will own and operate the new loading and unloading centers as well as manage handling and distribution of product on each end.
Mr. Esposito told The Produce News that loading and unloading will actually take place inside the two centers, which are each 200,000 square feet, and he said that one train will run weekly.
"Our two controlled loading centers allow us to load and unload 14 cars simultaneously inside," he said, noting that the cold chain is never broken. He added that the train will have a seamless interchange at Chicago and stops only to change crews.
"We believe this new service will provide an alternative method to ship perishable produce from Washington to New York other than over-the-road transportation," said John Philp, Union Pacific Railroad assistant vice president of food and refrigerated products.
Andy Pollak, AMPCO's CEO and owner, added, "We are very excited about this new service option for shippers of perishable goods, which will fill an existing transportation void by allowing for a five-day rail transit from Washington state to the Northeast."
The unit train has been designed to carry products such as apples, pears, onions and potatoes, and Mr. Esposito said that he had been in contact with some of Washington's major fruit shippers.
In addition, Railex was among the exhibitors at the recent PMA Fresh Summit in Atlanta, and, "We've gotten a lot of play from the convention," said Mr. Esposito. "This is something the country really needs."
Referring to the 3,000-mile distance from Washington to New York, Mr. Esposito said that the non-stop Railex service will move product in the same amount of time -- 124 hours - - as trucks. But by hauling 200 loads at once, the trail will save an estimated 4.3 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.
In addition to the fuel savings, Railex promises GPS tracking by case throughout the entire route, and Mr. Esposito said that the service also has the ability to move mixed commodities.
Moreover, all pack sizes and weights can be shipped, and bar codes will allow for real-time inventory. There will also be web-based access to inventory, and quality control will be provided at both east and west centers. Each center has a major packing and grading facility.
Different temperature rooms allow for all types of commodities, and Railex provides backhaul opportunities. More information on Railex's unique program can be seen on- line at www.railexusa.com.