Western Washington Railroad launches business in Chehalis

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CENTRALIA — Western Washington Railroad, which operates the 20-mile railway from Maytown to Chehalis currently being considered for purchase by local partners, is now offering transloading services to Lewis County businesses.

Transloading — shipping from one mode of transportation to another — will offer Western Washington Railroad an alternative income to railcar storage and will offer local businesses a convenient way to ship products, according to president and owner Toby Van Altvorst.

“Chehalis is a great location on the I-5 corridor to facilitate transportation, and Western Washington Railroad is excited to be a part of the community,” Van Altvorst said.

Western Washington Railroad tested out transloading in Chehalis last fall.

Truckloads of barley, grown by Boistfort Valley Farms near Curtis, were delivered to the rail yard near West Street in Chehalis and were loaded into 100-ton railcars to be shipped to Vancouver.

Wilco, a co-op company that works with local farms, used its trucks to deliver the barley from the farms.

Farmers say they benefit by directly loading products onto railcars rather than having to drive down to Kalama and wait in line for it to be shipped.

Van Altvorst estimates a company using the transloading services to the East Coast could save up to 50 percent compared to using trucks from shipment.

Bill Deutscher, a WWR customer service specialist, said last fall WWF has not seen any other kind of business beside railcar storage until it started transloading barley.

“Since we’ve been here, all we have done is car storage,” Deutscher said in August. “This is different. This is new business.”

The transloading may also bring value to the railway, which could be changing ownership in the next three years.

Lewis County and the city of Chehalis are interested in purchasing the 20-mile stretch of Tacoma Rail’s line from the city of Tacoma. A proposed agreement dictates that Lewis County and Chehalis have three years to pay $3 million for the railway.

Western Washington Railroad would still operate the line, while the city and county would own it and keep revenue.