Schenectady County

Railex to expand produce shipments

Railex will add a second train service next month to transport fruit and vegetables to the Northeast

Railex will add a second train service next month to transport fruit and vegetables to the Northeast via Rotterdam from Wallula, Wash.

Company officials said customer demand and the overwhelming success of the first five-day train service established last year is the reason for the additional train. The second weekly route will leave the West Coast for Rotterdam Industrial Park starting Feb. 9, allowing the company to double the amount of produce it hauls each week.

“We’re growing and we’ve got a great customer base,” said Paul Esposito, the company’s senior vice president. “We are clicking on the right cylinders.”

And with more produce comes more jobs. Esposito said Railex will hire up to 20 new workers in Rotterdam, adding to a work force that now stands at roughly 120.

The new trains will leave Washington state every Thursday morning and Saturday evening, arriving in Rotterdam every Tuesday morning and Friday evening. Esposito said the expanded service will allow companies to improve scheduling.

“Shippers and receivers can utilize us more as a logistics arm,” he said.

Since October 2006 the company has hauled produce such as potatoes, onions and apples from Washington to Rotterdam, where it is then routed by truck along the Eastern Seaboard. Railex now serves the Price Chopper supermarket chain, Sysco Foods, U.S. Food Services, Stop N’ Shop and Wal-Mart.

The 55-car Railex trains typically make the run between Washington and New York in 124 hours or less. Each boxcar is climate-controlled and outfitted with a GPS transponder, which allows both Railex and its customers to track shipments.

Esposito said demand for the service grew to an extent that some trains were growing beyond 70 cars.

He said the company hauls more than 220 truckloads of produce cross country each week, saving an estimated 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel per train and lowering emissions by 85,000 metric tons per year.

Even with the new route, Esposito said Railex will still primarily haul potatoes, onions and apples. He said the real changes for Railex will come sometime this fall, when the company plans to open a route to the produce-rich central California region.

“When we look forward to our expansion in California, that’s when you’ll see a lot of commodity change,” he said.

Esposito said growth along the California line will start much like the Washington service. Initially, the company will run a single route and then increase the number of trains as business develops.

Similar expansion is also planned between the Northeast and Southeast, Esposito said. Within two years, Railex plans to extend a high-speed produce train into south Florida.

“That’s part of our aggressive expansion plans,” he said. “Getting the four corners of the U.S. connected with high-speed unit trains.”

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