On August 30, Watco’s first short line in the state of Georgia began delivering cars to Customers along the Savannah River.
The Savannah & Old Fort Railroad (SVHO) is a 6.45-mile long line that connects with the CSX at Southover Yard, which lies south of the river. The railroad was given the name as a nod to Old Fort James Jackson, which lies one mile east of Savannah. Old Fort Jackson was constructed between 1808 and 1812 to protect Savannah from attack by the sea. It was one of three Confederate forts that protected Savannah during the civil war until the Union army captured the city by land.
The railroad delivers a variety of commodities to terminal operators along the river. Although there are eight Customers on the line, there are 29 different Customers who our Customers deliver to.
“I’ve had some of the Customers reach out to me and commend our team on how they have communicated with the Customers on the line and reached out to teach them the various tools that are available to aid the Customers in setting up shipments, and ordering and tracking cars,” said Rob Thrall, VP of business development. “They’ve been very appreciative of how proactive they are in getting things set up and ready for them to use on day one.”
A ten-year agreement was signed with CSX to operate the line with growth obligations built into the agreement that could expand the length of the contract. Because of its connectivity to the river accessing the Atlantic Ocean, the commodities that are shipped on the line have an impact internationally, one example of this is the line’s top Customer, Georgia Biomass. They bring in wood pellets that are shipped to Germany and are used in the operations of a power plant.
Other large Customers on the line include Southern States Chemicals and Argos.
Thrall said, “In addition to the current Customers, we’re already in talks on some other big projects and are focused on growing the business, both with new and our current Customers.”
There were approximately 15,470 cars shipped on the line but Thrall feels that with our experienced team, there are opportunities to grow that number.
Terence Snell is serving as the general manager of the railroad. He joined the Watco Team nine years ago and was a conductor with the Vicksburg Southern, a trainmaster for the Baton Rouge Southern Railroad and the general manager of the Bogalusa Bayou Railroad. He is excited to be back in Savannah, where he is from originally.
Other team members include Jeffrey Infinger, conductor/engineer Paul Mitchell, conductor; Jasper Nail, roadmaster; Christopher Odom, conductor; Donald Robert, CMO; Eric Smith, conductor/engineer, Montel Stanley, conductor/engineer, and Daryle Rogers, conductor/engineer. Another team member, Jared Costello, conductor/engineer, will be joining the team in a couple of weeks.
Ron Spencer, commercial director, said, “This was a very smooth and successful start-up that allowed us to have all Customers switched within the first 24 hours of operation. All departments pulled together and performed their assigned tasks without fail.”
The team got off to an interesting start as only a few days after startup, they had to tie things down and secure them and then shut down for a few days to prepare for Hurricane Dorian