A record-breaking year
The Times-Tribune 14 Jan 2019
by Borys Krawczeniuk, staff writer
Linde Corporation leads the surge with 19% increase in “frack sand” shipments
The local freight railroad authority demolished its year-old record for hauling carloads with a performance that topped even national trends.
JAKE DANNA STEVENS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Train cars travel through the Steamtown site in Scranton on Jan. 10.
The Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority, through its system operator, the Delaware-lackawanna Railroad, carried 9,453 carloads in 2018, up from 8,572 carloads a year earlier, a 10.3 percent increase.
Across the country, U.S. carload traffic last year totaled more than 13.6 million, up 1.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the Association of American Railroads, which tracks railroad freight traffic.
“It was a good year,” authority Executive Director Larry Malski said. “It was a really good year.”
The authority owns and operates 100 miles of track in Lackawanna and Monroe counties, and the Delaware-lackawanna has operated on its tracks since August 1993. Traffic grew to the 2017 level from 6,526 carloads in 2016, a 31.4 percent increase and setting the just-broken record.
The big driver for the local railroad remained Linde Corp. and its Carbondale Transload operation for distributing fracking sand in Carbondale. Drillers use the sand in hydraulic fracturing, the process used to release trapped Marcellus Shale natural gas.
Last year, Linde brought in 3,257 carloads compared to 2,740 in 2017, an 18.9 percent boost.
“It’s 90 percent of our (hauling) business,” Linde president and owner Scott Linde said, crediting the railroad authority for developing the ability to bring in 100 carloads of sand at a time. “All we do is take it out of the cars and put it on a truck.”
The sand imports keep the rail yards’ 15 to 20 employees busy, he said.
“We do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.
The local railroad’s other big growth came from Ardent Mills, a flour processing plant in Mount Pocono, Monroe County, with traffic up to 3,871 carloads from 3,666, a 5.6 percent increase; Bestway, a lumber shipper in Cresco, Monroe County, up to 661 carloads from 563, 17.4 percent increase; Keystone Propane in Tobyhanna, Monroe County, up to 369 carloads from 326, up 13.2 percent; General Dynamics, in Scranton, up to 73 carloads from 40, an 82.5 percent increase; and Valley Distributing, a warehouse in South Scranton, up to 280 carloads from 127, a 120.5 percent increase.
“Everything is up,” said Dave Blount, a spokesman for the Delaware-lackawanna. “It’s not just wheat and grain and sand. Plastics is up, lumber is up, propane is up. The economy is good regardless of who you want to believe among the morons in Washington, D.C.”
Barring the unforeseen, Blount expects the numbers to keep rising this year, at least partially because of the fracking sand.
“Gas is big in a lot of the northeast quadrant of Pennsylvania and will be many more years to come,” he said.
Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@ timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9147; @Borysbloott on Twitter