Tuesday, August 9, 2016

HUNDREDS RIDE THE RAILS TO CELEBRATE TC&W'S 25TH BIRTHDAY

Nearly 400 guests boarded maroon and gold passenger cars from a bygone era July 21-23 as part of TC&W's 25th birthday celebration. President Mark Wegner said the excursions were his company's way of saying "thank you" to the elected officials, customers and employees who have helped make TC&W the largest and most successful short line railroad in Minnesota. The round-trip journeys took delighted passengers from Chanhassen to Cologne or Sacred Heart to Montevideo and back, enjoying box lunches, beautiful scenery and a little history lesson along the way.

Press coverage of the events in local newspapers highlighted the importance of TC&W to the businesses it serves. In a Chanhassen Villager story by Unsie Zuege, Lyman Lumber's branch manager John Zirbes told the reporter, "The TC&W is very important to our business. Most of our lumber comes from British Columbia and the western United States. To carry (lumber) that far, you can't truck it, it's too expensive. So we need a healthy railroad to bring us lumber, structural panels, gypsum; it all comes in on rail." Zaire said the company gets hundreds of rail cars every year, "delivered right in the middle of our yard."

In a Hutchinson Leader story, reporter Terry Davis interviewed Brad Kohls, grain manager for South Central Grain and Energy. He said that the connections TC&W provides to four of the nation's Class I rail carriers are vital to his company, which has facilities in Stewart, Buffalo Lake, and Hector, as well as in two other communities served by Minnesota Prairie Line, also operated by TC&W.

"The service is fantastic. It's huge to our producers. They get the benefit of experts in moving grain. TC&W has done a fantastic job," he said. His boss, David Peters agreed, saying, "There is really no way we could get along without the railroad."

Similar views were expressed in the story by Jeff Nielsen, CEO of Winthrop-based United Farmers Cooperative, which operates a grain shuttle facility outside Brownton. According to the story, the co-op is building a major fertilizer distribution plant there as well.

"It opens up a lot more markets for our members to ship all over the world," Nielsen said.

Wegner said the success of the 25th birthday celebration is a reflection of how much TC&W's customers value its service. "We have helped each other grow over the years," he said. "That's exactly what we hoped for when TC&W began operations in 1991."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

TWIN CITIES & WESTERN RAILROAD CELEBRATES QUARTER-CENTURY OF SERVICE


Short-line rail has been connecting Minnesota products with the world since 1991 


GLENCOE, Minn.--Later this month, Minnesota's Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W), one of the state's busiest short-line freight rail carriers, will transport something very different -dozens of passengers who, according to TC&W President Mark Wegner, have helped the company survive and thrive to celebrate its 25th anniversary. TC&W began service on July 26, 1991, and operates from its headquarters in Glencoe.


On July 21 and 22, TC&W will operate a series of special diesel-powered passenger excursions to thank customers, employees and government leaders who have helped make the railroad a successful and indispensable asset to rural Minnesota and eastern South Dakota. Twenty-five years after its founding, the company is responsible for moving almost $1.5 billion in goods from Minnesota farms and manufacturers to market in 39 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.


"We have been very fortunate to have the support of the communities we serve and their elected representatives," Wegner said. "They have created a positive business environment that has enabled our customers to invest over $500 million in new or upgraded production, processing and shipping facilities along the TC&W line."


 Wegner said many Twin Cities residents are unaware of the importance of short-line freight service to the rural communities outside the metro area.


"Our 20 largest shippers employ more than 2,600 people, and they pay combined total wages of over $111 million," he noted. "Several are among the largest employers in their communities. They provide more than $12 million in benefits to their workers. Good jobs with good benefits are not that easy to find in many rural areas, so our customers are highly valued as employers."


TC&W employs more than 85 people at its Glencoe headquarters and other locations, spending $6 million annually on payroll and benefits, and another $1.2 million in railroad retirement taxes.


Wegner said TC&W has a "remarkably loyal and efficient" work force that deserves much of the credit for the company's success. "Our employees have been the key to our growth, and the quality of our customer service," he said.

TC&W's main line extends from the Twin Cities to Milbank, South Dakota, with branch lines serving grain terminals on the Mississippi River at Camden Place and Savage. In total, the company operates on 294 route miles of track in Minnesota and 49 miles of track in South Dakota, linking its shippers to Class I rail carriers including Canadian Pacific, Union Pacific, BNSF Railway and Canadian National.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

WINTHROP OFFICIALS: TC&W RELOCATION COULD SERIOUSLY HARM OUR ECONOMY

Two governmental organizations in Winthrop, Minnesota, have gone on record opposing any relocation of Twin Cities and Western Railroad (TC&W) "that would negatively affect the railroad's ability to continue to serve Heartland Corn Products, United Farmers Cooperative and other rural Minnesota businesses at the same level of safety and efficiency they experience under the status quo."

The Winthrop City Council and Winthrop Opportunities, a local development organization, both passed a resolution expressing concern that Winthrop's local economy could be "seriously harmed" if a reroute of TC&W's freight rail service impaired the ability of the two co-ops to continue to ship their goods safely and cost-effectively.

Winthrop Mayor Dave Trebelhorn signed the resolution on behalf of the City Council, while Winthrop Opportunities Board Chair Lance Wiborg signed on behalf of that organization.

The complete text of the resolution follows:

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF TWIN CITIES & WESTERN RAILROAD

WHEREAS, the Twin Cities and Western Railroad (TC&W) provides a vital freight rail link between dozens of rural Minnesota businesses and national and international markets; and,

WHEREAS, the largest 20 companies served by TC&W ship nearly $1.5 billion in client goods from rural Minnesota communities to destinations around the globe, and employ more than 2,600 Minnesota and South Dakota residents; and,

WHEREAS, TC&W shippers across western Minnesota have invested more than $500 million in building and/or upgrading production, processing and shipping facilities along the existing TC&W route; and,

WHEREAS, these rural companies rely on TC&W freight rail service because it is the safest and most cost-effective shipping alternative available to them; and,

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council is currently considering route proposals for the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SLRT) project that would require the relocation of TC&W freight rail service to an alternate route that is less safe and less cost-effective than the railroad's existing route; and,

WHEREAS, Heartland Cort Products (HCP) AND United Farmers Cooperative (UFC), both companies that rely on TC&W freight service, are two of our community's most valued employers and important contributors to our economic health; and,

WHEREAS, our local economy would be seriously harmed if relocation of TC&W's freight rail route impaired the ability of HCP and UFC or other rural Minnesota businesses to continue to ship their goods safely and cost-effectively;

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Winthrop City Council officially opposes any relocation of Twin Cities and Western Railroad that would negatively affect the railroad's ability to continue to serve HCP, UFC and other rural Minnesota businesses at the same level of safety and cost-efficiency they experience under the status quo; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be forwarded to Governor Mark Dayton, Metropolitan Council Chair Susan Haigh, local legislators and the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

TC&W RAILROAD REJECTS TRANSYSTEMS LIGHT RAIL PLAN

After reviewing a technical analysis prepared by a South Dakota engineering firm, Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W) today announced that it has rejected a proposal by Transystems, an independent consultant, to relocate freight rail service from the Kenilworth Corridor to a St. Louis Park route. The engineering analysis described the Transystems proposal as “neither efficient, safe nor cost effective when compared to TC&W’s current route.”

TC&W President Mark Wegner said he received the report yesterday from Civil Design, Inc. (CDI). It highlighted a number of specific problems with the St. Louis Park route recommended by independent consultant Transystems on January 30. “The operating conditions proposed by the Transystems alignment would be detrimental in every respect to current and future operating conditions for the TC&W,” the report concluded.

The Transystems plan would reroute freight rail traffic through St. Louis Park on the MN&S rail line owned by Canadian Pacific. It is only slightly different from the plan proposed in the October 2012 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) published by Hennepin County.

Among the problems cited in the CDI report to TC&W:

         --The proposed reroute does not meet mainline standards for Class I railroad construction as required by the length and weight of TC&W trains moving freight to and from Class I carriers;

         --The installation of a Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) signal controlled by other railroads would force TC&W trains to wait on the track for access rights from the controlling railroads, causing costly and inefficient delays;

--The reroute includes three reverse curves, also known as S-curves, and multiple undulating grades in less than one mile, unsafe elements that should be “avoided at all costs,” according to the American Railroad Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), which reports that such elements can “greatly increase the likelihood of the train buckling and thus derailment.”

--The route requires tracks to be built on bridges, creating higher maintenance and repair costs, but there is no agreement as to who would be responsible for those costs.

Wegner said it’s hard for him to understand why Transystems recommended a St. Louis Park reroute that is only slightly different from the DEIS plan that TC&W rejected. He said the railroad wasn’t asked for input in either case until the designs already had been made public.

In contrast, Wegner pointed to the Brunswick Central reroute option, which TC&W found acceptable from a safety perspective. That route, which skirts the St. Louis Park High School’s football field, was developed by the Metropolitan Council with the collaboration of Canadian Pacific and TC&W to meet Class I mainline safety and engineering standards.

“You don’t build passenger aircraft to meet minimum safety standards; you don’t build road bridges to meet minimum weight standards .These designs have numerous safety redundancies built in,” Wegner said. “When state and federal authorities are looking at freight rail options here in the Twin Cities, it’s hard to imagine them taking the position that a less safe route is preferable to our current route.”

The failure to meet Class I safety and engineering standards makes it impossible for TC&W to accept the Transystem plan, Wegner concluded, because “it does not allow us to protect our current and future shippers in Minnesota and South Dakota.”

NOTE: The CDI report is available on the Twin Cities & Western website.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

"CONSIDER RURAL IMPACT OF SLRT," OFFICIALS TELL GOVERNOR

A group of rural business leaders and community officials has urged Governor Mark Dayton to recognize the importance of TC&W freight rail service to rural Minnesota as he works with the Metropolitan Council to evaluate various proposals for routing the Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SLRT).

The group of 36 rural shippers, mayors, county commissioners and economic development officials signed an October 17 letter to the Governor, requesting that he "encourage SLRT planners and decision-makers to recognize the statewide implications of the project, and consider the impact of their freight rail decisions on rural Minnesota as well as the communities of the metro area."

"There has been very little discussion of the statewide impact of SLRT as it relates to the indispensable freight rail service that keeps our rural economies vibrant and growing," the signers wrote, noting that the businesses served by TC&W sell more than $4 billion worth of goods to markets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and overseas, employing more than 2,660 people with an annual payroll of over $111 million.

The letter was signed by:

  • Scott Nagel, President, ADM, Minneapolis, MN
  • Joseph  Berning, Board Chair, Big Stone County  Board of Commissioners, Ortonville, MN 
  • Larry Serbus, President, Bird Island Bean Company, Bird Island, MN
  • Duane Anderson, President/CEO, Central Bi Products, Redwood Falls, MN
  • Deb Lingl, City Administrator, City of Bird Island, Bird Island, MN 
  • Joyce Nyhus, Mayor, City of Buffalo Lake, Buffalo Lake, MN 
  • Carl Colwell,  Mayor, City of Morton, Morton, MN
  • Dan Coughlin, City Administrator, City of Olivia, Olivia, MN 
  • Suzanne Hilgert, Mayor, City of Olivia, Olivia, MN
  • Ron Schlimme, General Manager, Clinton Farmers Elevator, Clinton, MN 
  • Sandy Gillespie, Grain Merchandiser, Clinton Farmers Elevator, Clinton, MN 
  • Craig Hebrink, President/CEO, Co-op Country Farmer's Elevator, Renville, MN 
  • Tom Otto, Plant Manager, Dairy Farmers of America, Winthrop, MN
  • Rodney Winter, General Manager, Equity Elevator Trading Company, Wood Lake, MN 
  • Scott Dubbelde, General Manager, Farmers Co-op Elevator, Hanley Falls, MN
  • Ben Hedtke, Grain Merchandiser, Farmers Co-op Elevator, Hanley Falls, MN
  • Glen Moe, General Manager, Farmers Union Co-op Oil Company, Montevideo, MN 
  • Tom Traen, General Manager, Glacial Plains Cooperative, Murdock, MN
  • Eric Baukol, Risk Manager, Granite Falls Energy, Granite Falls, MN 
  • Guy Mann, Chairman, Grant County Commissioners, Milbank, SD
  • Scott Blumhoefer, Vice President, Heartland Corn Products, Winthrop, MN 
  • Rob Everist, President, L.G. Everist, Inc., Sioux Falls, SD
  • Dale Carlson, President, Lyman Lumber Company, Excelsior, MN
  • Peter Valentin, Grain Merchandiser, Meadowland Farmers Coop, Lamberton, MN 
  • Bob Zelenka, Executive Director, Minnesota Grain & Feed Association, Eagan, MN 
  • Jane Remiger, Chair, Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Coalition, Wood Lake, MN 
  • Marvin Garbe, President, Montevideo Economic Dev. Authority, Montevideo, MN 
  • Julie Rath, Economic Dev. Spec., Redwood Area Dev. Corp., Redwood Falls, MN
  • Christina Hettig, Exec. Director, Renville Housing & Economic Development, Olivia, MN 
  • Jason Wojahn, Director of Logistics, RPMG, Shakopee, MN
  • Harold Pettis, Board Representative, Sibley County Commissioners, Gaylord, MN 
  • Gene Lutteke, General Manager, South Central Grain & Energy, Fairfax, MN 
  • Chuck Steffi, President, Step Saver, Inc., Redwood Falls, MN
  • Jeff Nielson, General Manager, United Farmers Co-op, Winthrop, MN
  • Dean lssacson, President/Gen. Manager, Western Consolidated Elevator, Holloway, MN 
  • Paul Mattson, Manager, Western Consolidated Elevator, Holloway, MN













Tuesday, October 8, 2013

STUDY REVEALS EXTENSIVE IMPACT OF TC&W FREIGHT OPERATIONS


St. Paul, MN (Oct. 8, 2013)--Twin Cities and Western Railroad (TC&W), the freight rail carrier at the heart of the Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SLRT) planning process, is a key player in the economic health of rural Minnesota, according to a study conducted by KlasRobinson Q.E.D., a Twin Cities market research firm that based its findings on a confidential survey of the railroad’s largest customers.

The study, released today, shows that TC&W’s largest 20 shippers generate more than $4 billion in combined annual sales, and ship more than 37 percent of those goods, about $1.5 billion worth, via the Glencoe-based freight line.

Seventeen of the top 20 shippers are rural Minnesota companies or agricultural cooperatives that utilize the railroad to reach markets in 39 U.S. states, seven Canadian provinces and four Mexican states. They ship a diverse array of products ranging from corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar and vegetables to ethanol, fertilizer, machinery, lumber, crushed rock, metals, plastics, fuel oil, and manufactured goods.

Together, the 20 companies employ an estimated 2,660 employees with combined annual wages of over $111 million. Over the past two decades, they have invested more than $500 million in production, processing and shipping facilities located along the existing TC&W rail line.

“The magnitude of the direct impacts of Twin Cities and Western Railroad and its customers provides compelling evidence of the importance of the freight rail carrier to Minnesota’s rural economy,” the report concludes.

TC&W’s role in the regional transportation picture has become more important as planning for the SLRT project has accelerated. Under federal law, the interests of freight rail operators and shippers must be considered in the development of passenger rail service.

TC&W President Mark Wegner said there’s a reason for that federal policy.  “It preserves freight rail transportation,” said Wegner. “but more importantly, it preserves thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of investment by rural businesses that rely on us to get their goods to market safely and cost-effectively.”

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Twin Cities & Western Railroad is a Class III rail carrier based in Glencoe, MN. It operates over 229 miles of track between the Twin Cities and western Minnesota/eastern South Dakota, connecting with all Class I railroads and providing a gateway to world markets for its agricultural and manufacturing customers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

PROPOSED SLRT PLAN UNACCEPTABLE, SAYS TC&W PRESIDENT

Proposed plan for Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SLRT) fails to address freight rail reroute design safety, efficiency and cost concerns

The president of Twin Cities and Western Railroad (TC&W) has officially notified Hennepin County officials that the proposed design for rerouting of freight rail service to accommodate the Southwest Light Rail Transitway (SLRT) “fails to meet recognized standards of engineering and safety.”

Mark Wegner’s comments appeared in a letter accompanying TC&W’s detailed response to the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) published by Hennepin County in October. December 31 was the final deadline for submission of response comments.

The DEIS describes a “locally preferred alternative” route that would require relocation of TC&W’s freight rail line. Before that route can be approved by federal regulatory agencies and become eligible for federal funding, the freight railroad must sign off on the proposed relocation plan and relinquish its rights to its current route. Federal rail policy requires that the interests of freight rail operators and shippers be considered in the development of passenger rail projects.

TC&W is a key player in the economic health of western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota, Wegner said, providing farmers and manufacturers across the region with vital access to national and international markets. He said the proposed changes to the existing freight rail route have the potential to produce negative impacts on the “availability, safety, efficiency and cost of the freight rail service our customers depend on.”

“We always have been supportive of the light rail project, as long as it is implemented in a way that preserves our ability to provide our customers with safe and efficient service at the same costs they now pay,” said Wegner. “However, this design does not meet those tests.”

An earlier design of the reroute plan which had more moderate grade increases and gentler curves was presented to TC&W officials in 2008, but that design never made it into the DEIS, Wegner said. Hennepin County staff members were notified more than a year ago that the “locally preferred alternative” was not acceptable to TC&W due to safety, efficiency and cost concerns.

“We hope that Hennepin County and the Met Council respond quickly and decisively to our input,” Wegner said. “We want to be able to support the SLRT project and work constructively with the jurisdictions involved, but we can’t give up our right to operate on our existing route unless we are satisfied that the relocation plan is comparable in safety, efficiency and cost to what we have now.”
 
Wegner’s letter and the full TC&W response to the DEIS are available on the railroad’s website at http://www.tcwr.net, along with other key documents and appendices.


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