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Tank car facility opens in revitalized Derby building

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MILO — The sound of employees working on the railroad will be increasing in the Derby section of town with the opening of a new multi-million dollar facility in a revitalized building for the cleaning, repair and fleet management of railroad tank cars. Katahdin Railcar Services LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Central Maine & Quebec Railway (CMQ), formally opened for business on May 31 with a ceremony and ensuing tours of the space.

“First and foremost I would like to thank Chad Mowery,” CMQ President and CEO Ryan Ratledge said, referring to the work of the vice president of operations for Katahdin Railcar Services. Ratledge said Mowery helped lead the efforts to fix up the 24,000-square foot-building, which is part of CMQ’s approximately 110-acre facility. The railroad invested $7 million into the new operation.

“It is just a tremendous undertaking, it is amazing already,” Ratledge said.

Standing in front of two large fuel tanks, Mowery pointed to before and after photos of the space the grand opening attendees were standing in. He said the first image of the room full of old rail parts was taken just six months ago.

“We had a lot of help in this project, we had a lot of local contractors,” Mowery said. “The great thing about this project is we were able to take an existing building, an existing infrastructure and we improved it and kept all of it local.”

He said Gordon Construction of Sangerville led the resurrection of the facility, and Mowery said 73 workers took part over the last half dozen months for about 26,000 man hours. He said the project involved 16 sub-contractors, with 14 of these located within 30 miles.

“Eighty-seven percent of materials were sourced within a 40-mile radius,” Mowery said.

After the Katahdin Railcar Services vice president of operations cut a ceremonial ribbon, three tour groups began.

“The whole point of this facility is this facility is meant to clean rail cars and this all supports that,” Mowery said to his group.

Katahdin Railcar Services will provide full tank-car cleaning for all types of cars with the ability to repair, replace and qualify all tank-car valves using a fully trained and certified staff. The facility will also provide multiple options for full repairs, end of lease inspections and storage capabilities. Mowery said once more certifications have been acquired, “this will be a one-stop shop.”

To clean tank cars, Katahdin Railcar Services has installed an automatic, internal cleaning system that uses a high-pressure water jet designed to use less water than previous systems. To support the process, the company built an on-site, closed-loop wastewater treatment system.

When asked, Mowery said “the closest facility mileage-wise is in Montreal.” He said the Canadian location cleans cars outdoors, where as Katahdin Railcar Services performs the service inside.

“It is not a big deal today, but the crew appreciates that,” Ratledge said after the tour.

“The closest one in the states is Western Pennsylvania, this is the only one in the northeast,” Mowery said.

“This building is set up to expand, to go from one and two to a third and a fourth,” he said about the car cleaning capabilities.

“We are optimistic that day will come sooner rather than later,” Ratledge added.

In addition to car cleaning and repair, Katahdin Railcar Services will offer owners complete tank-car fleet management, extending a service already available to other CMQ customers. CMQ offers storage space for as many as 1,400 railcars.

“If you ship a railcar on CMQ, we create online tracking reports and continuously offer that information through our customer service reps,” Mowery explained. “Where a car is, whether it’s on schedule, what’s the plan going forward, all that information goes to the customer.”

For Katahdin Railcar Services, the link with CMQ is a strong advantage. “What’s unique about our facility is that it’s part of a railroad,” Mowery said. “There are a lot of third-party tank car facilities out there, but none that have our flexibility. We have the ability to handle unit trains, or store cars, do the work when needed, then send them outbound.”

“The entire site right now is at 23,” Mowery said about the number of employees. He said a few vacancies will be filled to bring the total to 27. “Our goal as part of that investment is to continue to add staff as we expand,” Mowery added.

Ratledge said the original employment number at the site was 14 in 2014. “We have effectively doubled our workforce in this Derby area,” he said.

Katahdin Railcar Services is located at the historic former shops of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, which operated the complex for nearly a century.

“We’re proud of the fact we can take an existing building that’s more than 100 years old, rehab it completely, and continue to invest in the community, by using local contractors,” Mowery said. “We took the bones of the original facility and nothing else. Beyond the steel and brick, everything is new.”

“We enjoy investing in the community, this is where our workforce lives and it’s important to us,” Mowery said. “It’s nice to give back,” he added, mentioning so much has been taken away with the closure of paper mills and loss of other employers.

CMQ, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group, was formed in 2014 and offers freight service over nearly 500 route miles in Maine, Québec and Vermont.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
OPENING OF KATAHDIN RAILCAR SERVICES IN DERBY — Katahdin Railcar Services Vice President of Operations Chad Mowery cuts the ceremonial ribbon to open the facility in the Derby section of Milo on May 31. The new multi-million dollar facility was revitalized for the cleaning, repair and fleet management of railroad tank cars by Katahdin Railcar Services LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Central Maine & Quebec Railway. Katahdin Railcar Services is located at the former shops of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, which operated the complex for nearly a century.

Observer photos/Stuart Hedstrom
THE NEW KATAHDIN RAILCAR SERVICES IN DERBY — Katahdin Railcar Services was formally opened in the Derby section of Milo on May 31. The new multi-million dollar facility was revitalized for the cleaning, repair and fleet management of railroad tank cars by Katahdin Railcar Services LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Central Maine & Quebec Railway. Katahdin Railcar Services is located at the former shops of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, which operated the complex for nearly a century.

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