From Customers to volunteer firemen, our Team on the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad (BLU) is helping to ensure the safety of others.

When the Balsam-Willets-Ochre Hill Volunteer Fire Department had questions about responding to railroad emergencies, the BLU Team was happy to provide instruction.

With a turn-out of 18 firemen, BLU Chief Mechanical Officer Jamie Miller led a session that provided hands-on training.

“We went over what these guys can do in the event of something happening along the right of way, how to shut down a locomotive, and possible hazards they might encounter,” Miller said. “It was a great opportunity for them to learn something new.”

Miller is no stranger to volunteering, having retired from the U.S. Coast Guard with 20 years of service before beginning his railroad career.

“Jamie and his wife, Michelle, have been with the BLU since November 2014 and have been great additions to our team,” said BLU General Manager Darl Farris. “While I hope these firemen never have to exercise their new found skills, I am thankful to Jamie for taking the time to share his knowledge with them and for his dedication to continued safe operations.”

The training wasn’t the first time the BLU Team had reached out to help others learn safety.

An employee of Evergreen Packaging in Canton, North Carolina, recently sprained an ankle while getting off a rail car, and the BLU Team as happy to step up to help prevent a recurrence.

Evergreen switches its own cars inside the paper mill, using its own locomotive and switch crew. Trainmaster Cain Greene shared Watco best practices in regards to safely mounting and dismounting a rail car.

“My schedule is always open when it comes to helping our customers when they are in need, especially when it comes to safety,” Greene said. “If we work as a team with the Customer, we all get closer to our goal of an injury- and incident-free work environment.”

Greene praised Evergreen for reaching out to the BLU in an effort to grow knowledge of safe work practices.

“Cain and the rest of the BLU team members recognize how closely the railroad’s success is connected to our Customer’s success,” Farris said. “This is just one example of the relationships we have with our Customers.”

“They help us as much as we try to help them. When our Customers are hurting, we are hurting with them. Likewise, when they celebrate successes, we are able to celebrate right along with them,” Farris said.

Evergreen, in turn, praised the BLU Team for their partnership and said the best practices and pointers were appreciated.

“The BLU crew has been more than willing to support our facility with training and advice on safety, track maintenance, and root cause analysis. Cain and the BLU personnel do a great job of communicating with us and treating us as partners,” said Robert Gerard, of Evergreen.



(L to R): Boyd Burgin (Evergreen switch crew), Cain Greene (BLU Trainmaster), Slade Henry (Evergreen switch crew), Robert Gerard (Evergreen Rail Operations and Maintenance Coordinator), and Brandon Carter (Evergreen locomotive engineer).

About the BLU

Receiving its name from the Blue Ridge Mountains which overlook this scenic North Carolina railroad, the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad (BLU) was Watco’s first property located in the state of North Carolina beginning in 2014. The BLU operates 92 miles of track, consisting of three branch lines that feed into Norfolk Southern’s terminal in Asheville, North Carolina: the T-Line to the west of Asheville, the W-Line to the south, and the TR-Line, which branches off the W-Line. The BLU primarily ships commodities such as wood chips, various paper products, plastics, concrete, coal, aggregate, and products used in the manufacture of Epsom Salt.