Rail Work to Help Commodities Reach New Markets

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(Image courtesy of the Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad.) (Image courtesy of the Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad.)

The president of Connersville-based Indiana Boxcar Corp., which owns the LaCrosse-based Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad, says an ongoing rail project will improve a vital economic gateway in the northwest part of the state. Powell Felix says activity along the rail lines used by his company through LaPorte, Porter and Starke counties continues to rise and some $600,000 in repairs and upgrades will "return value" to regional stakeholders. The short-line rail service provider works with Avon-based co-op Co-Alliance LLC to bring corn, soybeans, fertilizer and gypsum to market.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Felix described the reach of Hoosier commodities. "Corn and soybeans that go to markets that would not otherwise be available to the export markets or to the feed mills of the southeast, ethanol plants in the east, a lot of different markets that were a long distance away," he said. "On a nearer note -- but it takes a lot of trucks off the highway -- we are handling gypsum that's just a local truck move that comes in by rail and is just a short-haul truck move. That's not long distance, but it's also proving to be very environmentally-friendly, taking a lot less fuel coming by rail then it would be trucking the whole way from the Detroit area."

When the work is complete, all 15 miles of track used by CKIN will be federally-rated to handle Class 1 cars, which is the standard for heavy-haul rail shipping. Half of the funding came from the company and the other half is a state match through an Industrial Rail Service Fund grant. Nearly a dozen projects received support from the Indiana Department of Transportation program in 2018. The CKIN track runs through Union Mills, LaCrosse and Malden.

CKIN has a 20-year agreement with the town of North Judson -- the line's owners -- to operate and maintain the railroad on the line. The work is expected to be complete in the coming months.

Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad President Powell Felix described the reach of the Hoosier commodities.
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