Jim VanDerzee, Manager of Industrial Development, Buckingham Branch Railroad. notes that with most change, there is risk. New rail customers often must invest capital in rail infrastructure, usually without knowing if rail is a good logistical solution. Fear of this risk often steers prospective customers toward shipping freight with trucks.
Tucker Timber Products in Keysville, Virginia is a second-generation, family-owned railroad crosstie producer. They have been producing crossties at a mill adjacent to an active railroad main line track since 1986 but were shipping their crossties by truck because they lacked a siding. With sidetrack construction estimated at over $500,000, the risk was too great to make the investment without testing the rail shipment process.
The Buckingham Branch Railroad (BB) operates the main line adjacent to Tucker Timber. BB’s creativity and flexibility helped encourage and facilitate Tucker Timber’s conversion to rail shipping.
Because main line rail traffic is light at that location, BB allowed Tucker Timber to temporarily load
railcars on the main line. This unconventional solution required flexibility and coordination between
Tucker Timber and BB’s Operations Team.
BB also established new working relationships with the procurement team of its Class 1 partner, Norfolk Southern, resulting in new Norfolk Southern crosstie shipment sourcing from Tucker Timber with an assigned railcar pool. BB helped prove that rail is a good logistical solution for Tucker Timber, enabling Tucker Timber to grow their business over the last two years and even secure new business with customers outside of trucking distance.
Tucker Timber is now constructing a sidetrack to secure their rail business for the future, financed in part by a $422,000 Virginia Rail Industrial Access grant BB helped them obtain in 2021. The new siding will improve the efficiency of Tucker Timber’s mill operation so they can redeploy approximately $400,000 of loading equipment to other uses to grow their business.
Tucker Timber expects to grow their carload volume to over 168 after their sidetrack is complete, which equates to about 672 truckloads per year diverted from the highway. BB is proud to have played an important role in helping Tucker Timber prosper. These two family-owned businesses now have a great future together.