Although making the transition can be daunting at first glance, with the right rail expertise in place, qualified engineers and a helpful and guiding hand from your railroad carrier customer service representative, you will be moving and receiving waste-by-rail in no time.

Julie Mink


It is said that one railcar can carry as much waste as five over the road, fully loaded tucks and you’re convinced that the time is now to take the plunge and realize the savings. Now what?


The More Carriers, The Merrier

It should be taken into consideration as you get started that if you have an option to access more than one railroad carrier, you’ll provide yourself with a more strategic location allowing for higher control and leverage.  Following an exploratory phone call, an on-site meeting should be scheduled between your staff and your railroad customer service representatives to further evaluate your options before your first railcar is delivered.


Writing Out Your Plan

You’ll want to start by creating a site-specific plan tailored to your individual plant needs, customer demands and complete transportation network. Capture your anticipated rail volume as well as the size of your loading and unloading facilities (whether owned by your company or by your customers) and how many railcars you plan to ship per day, per week, per month and per year while accounting for any plant downtime due to expected service interruptions or maintenance programs. It will be critical in your design to understand how you’ll load and unload your railcars as well as how much manpower and time is required for the work.


You’ll need to determine what types of constraints you may have (both currently and anticipated) including issues with permitting, capital, geographical, traffic congestion issues and real estate issues. You will also need to take into consideration the time needed to gain approval for road crossings, implementation of turnouts and installation of signals.


Rail Access Could Come Easily

If you’ve already got access to a rail line or private spur at both the origin and destination point(s), it may be a matter of contacting a railroad customer service representative to discuss service schedules, railcar options (private versus railroad supplied) and freight rates and accessorial costs (switching fees, fuel surcharge rates, etc.) and then defining and agreeing to a tariff or contract. Getting started can be a simple phone call, meeting and agreement between you and the railroad carrier(s) or it can become more cumbersome.


More Elaborate Options

If you don’t already have access to a rail spur or siding, it’s time to pull up your sleeves and start looking at your rail access options including transloading, refurbishing or replacing an existing rail spur or siding or building a new siding from scratch.



While working within the scope of a well-defined research project, you can plot out existing transloading facilities that may either have terminals already up and running or plots of land available for you to begin. If you locate a transloading facility that can transload the product for you from/to truck into railcars and manage shipping these cars for you, your work may well be on a its way to being realized. If you determine that a transloading setup is not feasible, you may feel like you’re starting from scratch.


New Rail Build out or Rehabilitation of Existing Track

If you are challenged with the option to build a new rail-served facility or expand an existing operation, the process can become quite complex. In most cases, dealing with the railroad can be time consuming. On average, track construction without any additional turnouts averages about 11 months while the addition of a turnout can take on average 15 months to build and when you add in signaled facilities, the project can average 17 months from start to finish. A trusted railroad consultant, engineering firm and railroad customer service agent are your best points of reference.


In the event you’re flexible in locating or re-locating your plant, looking into programs offered by the railroads themselves to provide available land with railroad access may be an option. One such program is available through the CSX railroad network, Introduced in 2012, CSX launched a program called “CSX Select Sites”. The service offers customers a way to access certified, rail-ready properties for a variety of industrial uses. CSX has put together a list of properties located on along their rail network where projects are ready to quickly move forward because all known risk factors and potential issues have been identified. The company will also provide you with views of topography, rail and road layouts, and other significant characteristics of each Select Site property. Properties must also meet key criteria including infrastructure and utility availability, environmental reviews, appropriate zoning and entitlement, air quality permitting, rail serviceability, proximity to highways or interstates and other attributes.


First, you’ll need to identify which rail carriers will service your facility. With a good railroad map and a few phone calls, you should be able to narrow down the carrier. Once defined, contact the customer service representative assigned to your product—remember that for each product moved by rail, there is a customer representative in charge of new business. For example, the Union Pacific Railroad would define waste within the industrial products business group. Once you’ve contacted your railroad representative, you’ll most likely be asked to complete a service feasibility questionnaire answering questions regarding general service and site requirements. The railroad(s) will request a copy of a map containing the origin and destination city and state information as well as detailed prints and engineering drawings of your plants and adjacent properties, a copy of your industrial track agreement (in the event you don’t already have one in place, you’ll be asked to create one) and a copy of your Material Safety Data Sheet or “MSDS”.


Following completion, your railroad representative will be contacting you to formally begin the process. The railroad carrier will provide you with legal documents and payment and insurance requirements for your project. Most railroads will start by conducting an on-site location analysis that will include evaluating the proposed project and discussing any industrial track requirements. If you’ll be building or refurbishing any track, we suggest that you contact a rail engineering consultant and request that he/she participates. Most likely you’ll be asked to prepare and provide detailed construction drawings of the proposed track that will be included in your Industrial Track Agreement. Keep in mind that in some situations, your railroad carrier can either provide you with contacts for third party contractors, and in some cases can offer you with resources to complete the work installing and/or refurbishing the track. If not, expect to rely on outside companies to provide the work. Upon completion, your rail contractor will contact the designated railroad representative for final inspection, a requirement to place the track “in service”.


Get Moving by Rail

Once the process is complete and your customer service representative has signed off on all legal paperwork, credit application and all engineering drawings you’re ready to get moving by rail. The process can be daunting at first glance but with the right rail expertise in place, qualified engineers and a helpful and guiding hand from your railroad carrier(s) customer service representative, you will be moving and receiving waste-by-rail in no time.


Julie Mink is vice president of Tealinc Ltd. (Forsyth, MI) and is located in Tealinc’s Elizabeth, CO office. Her career includes positions as manager value creation and prior experience as a department head in a regional retail store, part of a national retail company with a market capitalization of $8.5b.  Julie’s tenor at Tealinc has spanned development of the ecommerce program, formulation and execution of market strategies, direct sales and development and refinement of the company extensive market database. She can be reached at (720) 733-9922 or [email protected].