WAHPETON, N.D. — The 514-mile Red River Valley & Western Railroad celebrated its 20th anniversary July 19.
Since 1987, when freight operations began in southeastern and central North Dakota over mostly branch-line track acquired from Burlington Northern, now BNSF Railway, RRV&W has handled more than one-half million carloads of grain, corn sweetener, sugar, machinery and other products. Meanwhile, the railroad’s freight volume has increased 133 per cent and last year totaled 53,600 carloads. Employment has risen from 46 to nearly 100 today.
Many new businesses have located or expanded along the line. Included are six high-volume grain elevators capable of handling 110-car “shuttle trains” carrying grain destined to major markets in the U.S. and overseas.
“The RRV&W is proud to celebrate this milestone,” said RRV&W President Andy Thompson. “We are particularly grateful to our employees, our customers, and the many partners who have been instrumental in our growth. We also want to thank our suppliers, BNSF Railway, public officials, and surrounding communities for their support over the past 20 years.”
RRV&W has spent more than $20 million for capital improvements, much of it to rehabilitate track with heavier rail. In addition, the railroad spends approximately $4.5 million annually on track maintenance.
In other improvements, the railroad has completely replaced its fleet of locomotives with Generation II diesel units, equipped with Caterpillar engines. RRV&W has also acquired 150 freight cars mostly for hauling grain.
“Our success has allowed us to reinvest in these rural branch lines, benefiting customers and local economies by preserving rail service to many communities,” Thompson said. “The result has been a stronger customer base and a bright future.”
To celebrate the anniversary, RRV&W is operating a series of special passenger trains July 19-20-21 inviting customers, employees, community leaders and children enrolled in various programs.
On hand to welcome guests are the railroad’s founders: Douglas Head, former Minnesota attorney general and co-founder of the Minneapolis law firm Head, Seifert & Vander Weide; Kent Shoemaker, RRV&W chairman and long-time rail executive; and Charles Clay, retired executive vice president of the Soo Line, now Canadian Pacific Railway, and member of the HH&VW law firm.
RRV&W’s success has not gone unnoticed. In 1997 and 2005, the railroad was selected by Railway Age magazine as “Regional Railroad of the Year.” In addition, the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association named RRV&W winner of its 2005 Marketing Competition. In 2006, RRV&W was presented with the “Short Line Achievement Award” by BNSF Railway.