COQUILLE — The first loaded train cars in five years headed north from Roseburg Forest Products’ Coquille mill on Monday.
A Coos Bay Rail Link locomotive hauled three cars, loaded to the brim with plywood bound for building-supply stores. The train’s departure marks the restoration of full freight rail service to the 134-mile line, linking the Southern Oregon Coast with the Willamette Valley.
The return of rail service to the Coquille plant restores efficiency to Roseburg Forest Products’ distribution process, said Jeff Brandt, the company’s transportation director.
Without rail service, he said, “Business still goes out the door, but you lose efficiency.”
He said the transition back to rail distribution will lessen the environmental impact of the company's sales.
“You’re taking trucks off the road,” he said.
Monday morning, forklifts carried pallet after pallet of bundled plywood into waiting rail cars. Each pallet bore the name of its intended destination. A quality assurance label signed by the shipping workers hung on each carload.
Lance Noel, Roseburg’s shipping supervisor, said workers need about 90 minutes to load each car. Though Monday’s shipment fit into three cars, the plant’s loading dock can accommodate 12. Brandt said Coos Bay Rail Link’s current plans call for six cars a day, picked up every other day.
“Shippers moved 2,480 rail cars of commodities across the Coos Bay rail line in 2012,” said Scott Parkinson, president of the CBRL. “We expect to double shipments on the rail line this year now that we have service to Coquille.”
The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay bought the rail line in 2009, two years after the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad ended service. It initially restored service to Reedsport and the North Spit, then to Coos Bay and North Bend. The Coquille leg of the route is the final section to reopen.
Though the line’s full length is operational, substantial repair work remains.
Reporter Thomas Moriarty can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.