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New owner begins operating area rail line

The new Blue Ridge Southern Railroad operated by a Kansas-based short-line freight line owner began running in Western North Carolina on July 26. The new Blue Ridge Southern Railroad operated by a Kansas-based short-line freight line owner began running in Western North Carolina on July 26.

The new owners of the Hendersonville-to-Brevard rail line have made no commitment yet on using the rail line, which advocates of the Ecusta Trail hope would be converted into a biking and pedestrian greenway.

 

Freight trains that serve 70 miles of the 92 miles of rail Watco Transportation Services bought from Norfolk Southern Railway began rolling under the new Blue Ridge Southern banner on July 26.
The Western North Carolina freight service, which Watco refers to as the BLU line, runs west of Asheville and from Asheville to Hendersonville, where it serves Kimberly Clark. The BLU will initially operate with 10 locomotives. Commodities shipped in the North Carolina mountain lines include forest products, aggregates and energy products, Watco said.
"I know we're going to operate the lines," said Watco Communications Director Tracie VanBecelaere. Asked about the proposed rail-to-trail on the Hendersonville-to-Pisgah Forest segment, she said, "I know that would require abandonment, which hasn't been done."
She said she knew of no ongoing conversation with the Friends of Ecusta Trail.
"I think I talked to someone from that group that was asking what we were going to do," she said.
A Watco marketing manager is working in the area trying to secure more freight business.
"If we can promote business and the economy and bring economic benefits to that area we'd rather do it," VanBecelaere said.
Thirty-one Watco employees operate the WNC lines. Company officials said earlier they expected to offer jobs to most Norfolk Southern crew members working the existing line.
"The BLU startup was very successful," Watco customer service manager Ron Spencer said in a company newsletter. "All customers were served on schedule and the BLU crews did a great job community and working with our customers."