Schenectady County

Railex line to haul Calif. produce

Railex has added a new set of tracks at the Rotterdam Corporate Park in anticipation of the fall ope

Railex has added a new set of tracks at the Rotterdam Corporate Park in anticipation of the fall opening of its new facility in California.

The company has nearly completed work on the tracks near its 250,000-square-foot Rotterdam produce distribution operation. The new set of rails is the fourth at the facility and represents a nearly $800,000 investment by the company, which opened for business in October 2006.

Paul Esposito, the vice president of sales and logistics for Railex, said the tracks will help accommodate a second train the company expects to add sometime in late September. But instead of bringing produce from the company’s warehouse in Wallula, Wash., the new train will be hauling agricultural goods from California.

By next month, Esposito said Railex will open a 200,000-square-foot cold storage facility in Delano, Calif., which is to start shipping West Coast produce east. These items will include lettuce, broccoli and grapes, “pretty much whatever the consumer demands,” he said.

Esposito said the climate-controlled trains have already been hauling loads more fragile than the onions, citrus fruits and potatoes they initially carried. Trucks now ship the produce and products north to the company’s facility in Washington, which packages the trains for Rotterdam, where they are sent on for regional distribution.

The new train will operate much like the others, with the company’s usual guarantee that products will move from west to east in less than five days. The company expects to haul the equivalent of 400 truckloads from its California facility each week, a figure that could increase if a third train is added next year as anticipated.

Esposito said products aboard the Railex trains won’t be limited to produce. The company has already shipped more than 1 million bottles of wine from the Columbia River basin along the Oregon and Washington border.

“They used to have the long haul by truck,” he said. “But they saw the benefit of utilizing the Railex system.”

With each 55-car train, the company estimates, it hauls an estimated 220 truckloads of produce cross-country each week, saving roughly 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel per train and lowering emissions by 85,000 metric tons per year. Each boxcar is climate-controlled and outfitted with a GPS transponder, which allows both Railex and its customers to track shipments.

Demand for the service is enough that even the size of the Railex trains has risen. Esposito said trains during the growing season in Washington have expanded to upwards of 70 cars.

Railex is also planning to establish a southeastern hub somewhere in southern Georgia or Florida. Eventually, the company plans to establish another terminus in the east-central United States, somewhere between Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis., Mo.

Last week, the company was designated the Corporation of the Year, an honor presented by the Chamber of Schenectady County to large businesses distinguished by growth.

Ray Gillen, executive director of the Metroplex Development Authority, lauded the rapid growth of Railex, which his agency helped bring to the corporate park in 2006. He said the company has demonstrated how efficient transportation can foster rapid economic growth not only in the county but in other areas of the nation.

“This investment is another sign of Railex’s success both in Rotterdam and around the nation as more and more customers sign up to use their super-fast and fuel-efficient transportation system,” he said of the company’s expansion.

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