December 6, 2013

Pan Am Railways stops service past Madison paper mill

Mill’s decision to stop shipping via rail prompts Pan Am to say it’s no longer economical for the railroad to operate north to Anson.

By Rachel Ohm
Staff Writer

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CHANGES: Cousineau Wood Products employees Darrell Clark, left, and Jerry Chestnut work on flooring stock at the North Anson company on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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rail service: Madison Paper Industries has stopped shipping on Pan Am rail lines like these because derailments hampered the paper company’s deliveries, according to a paper company official. The section of track is near Martin Stream Road and the Fairfield and Norridgewock townline.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Cousineau said he doesn’t blame the paper mill or the railroad company for the change in service, and acknowledged that without the paper mill there is no chance that the two smaller companies could support the rail traffic. The scenario, however, is very different from what was expected when the town of Anson and the state invested millions of dollars in railroad repairs less than a decade ago.

In 2004, the town of Anson applied for and received a $563,000 grant from the state for repairs to the track between Madison and North Anson. Under the agreement, the town was to contribute an equal amount, bringing the total funds for the project to more than $1 million, said Nate Moulton, rail director for the Maine Department of Transportation.

Pan Am, known at the time as Guilford Rail System, agreed to provide the local funds for the railroad through an agreement with the town of Anson. According to the agreement, Pan Am was required to use and maintain the reconstructed part of the railroad for 10 years following project completion.

According to Scarano, the track is still in service, but shipping to North Anson would not be an economical decision for either the railroad or the smaller companies. She said the railroad is working with Cousineau and ARC on finding other locations where they can load and unload products.

“We’re committed to rails and we’re committed to the state of Maine,” Scarano said. “Madison was the holding tenant, basically. They made the decision to not ship by rail anymore, and that makes the cost to those smaller companies more expensive. What we would have to charge them, because they’re the only ones on this 26-mile track, is, I would think, not feasible for them.”

She also said she hasn’t heard anything about the tracks being in poor condition. The 26-mile stretch is Class 1 track, which is the second-lowest classification in the Federal Railroad Administration’s system for determining the speed at which trains can operate. Freight trains cannot operate above 10 mph on Class 1 track.

Anson administrative assistant Robert Worthley said Thursday that the lack of service to North Anson was disappointing to the town, which in 2006 worked with Pan Am and the state to complete more than $1 million in track repairs to the stretch between Madison and North Anson.

“The railroad was a resource for Cousineau that is going to end up costing them money,” Worthley said. “They’re just barely holding on anyway. Every little additional cost, it just makes them that much closer to not continuing to be there.”

The reconstruction projected failed to revitalize the area’s economy partly because no money was invested in the stretch of rail line south from Madison to Oakland, Worthley said.

He said investments in the initial project by Anson taxpayers were minimal, but the town could be forced to pay part of the state’s investment back if rail service is discontinued.

The town is accountable for the money, even though it has no control over the operation of the railroad, because as the applicant on the grant it signed a contract with the state saying it could keep a commitment to running the railroad, according to Moulton, the state rail director.

“We’ll see what happens longer-term here. But just because ... a break in service or economics dictate that they don’t use rail for a period of time, that doesn’t mean we are going to rush in and say we want our money back,” Moulton said. “The infrastructure is there, it will continue to be there and we hope it will be used.”

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Additional Photos

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INCOMING: Cousineau Wood Products employee Ryan Atwood moves raw wood stock that now arrives by truck to the North Anson mill because Pan Am Railways no longer carries deliveries to the company.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Trucking: ARC Enterprises, a manufacturer of steel bridge beams in Kingfield is bringing shipments of large sheets of steel, some as large as 85 feet long by 10 feet wide, via truck from South Portland, a distance of 90 miles.

Contributed photo

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