WINCHESTER — Affiliates from Denver-based OmniTRAX Inc. and the Broe Group recently purchased the Winchester & Western Railroad for $105 million.
OmniTRAX — one of the largest privately held rail-centric transportation and transportation infrastructure holding companies in North America — bought the 101-year-old Winchester & Western Railroad (WW) from Ohio-based Covia Holdings Corporation on Sept. 11. Winchester & Western Railroad, a shortline railroad, provides freight rail service in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and New Jersey.
The Virginia Division of Winchester & Western Railroad has 53 miles of track running through the Shenandoah Valley and moves approximately 12,500 carloads per year, according to OmniTRAX’s website. The Virginia Division’s two lines are the Winchester Mainline and the Sandman Branch, the latter of which covers 18 miles of track between a sand mine in Gore and Winchester. The New Jersey Division has 47 miles of track and moves approximately 8,500 carloads per year.
None of Winchester & Western Railroad’s roughly 50 employees lost their jobs in the acquisition, according to OmniTRAX CEO Kevin Shuba.
Shuba said in a Monday phone interview the company wanted to acquire the Winchester & Western Railroad for years, noting that the main benefit of the acquisition is the railroad’s location, which gives shippers access to 140 million people within a 100-mile radius. He added that the railroad is served by two class one railroads — Norfolk Southern Corp. in Hagerstown, Md., and CSX Corp. in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Winchester.
The acquisition was aided by the fact that OmniTRAX had a good relationship with Covia, which Shuba said is OminTRAX’s largest customer. Covia is a leading provider of mineral-based and material solutions for the industrial and energy markets.
“We always told them when you are ready to sell it, we want to buy it,” Shuba said.
Shuba said OmniTRAX provides the 21 regional and shortline railroads it owns back office support, sales support, IT, marketing and customer services. The company plans to implement technology into its operating plans, including the ability to check for bad rail. A system called Wi-Tronix is being used on all of OmniTRAX’s locomotives for predictive maintenance, determining a locomotive’s location, speed and fuel levels.
Winchester & Western Railroad will soon operate out of new offices in Martinsburg, according to Shuba. The land has been secured and a contractor has been selected to begin construction.
Shuba said OmniTRAX is “very excited” about the Winchester & Western Railroad acquisition and that it will work closely with economic development teams in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey to bring customers back to using rail instead of trucks.
“You can move 500 miles on one gallon of diesel when you ship by rail,” Shuba said. “So one of the things we will continue to do is bring customers back to railroads and help bring economic development activity back to the area.”
Winchester & Western Railroad joins Cleveland & Cuyahoga Railway (CCRL), Cleveland Port Railway (CHB), Alabama & Tennessee River Railway LLC (ATN) and Fulton County Railway LLC (FCR) on the list of recent OmniTRAX transactions.
“By becoming part of the OmniTRAX family, [Winchester & Western Railroad] gains the support and leadership guidance that will allow it to implement improved operational strategies with the speed and agility that a logistics company can deliver,” an OmniTRAX news release said.