Short Line RR Plans Upgrades On Old Rock Island Line

By Fred Arnold Telescope Publisher

When the Rock Island Railroad left Belleville in 1980, local trackage was never updated. The line was purchased by the KYLE Railroad, an arm of the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad. Since that time the short line railroad has been used for small industrial and agricultural customers.

In an interview with the Telescope, Jerry Vest, senior vice-president for government and industrial affairs of the Genesee & Wyoming, says the growing national railroad has plans for the line through North Central Kansas, including Belleville.

“The KYLE is made of spinoff railroads,” he said,: And the Rock Island was the worst of the worst of the major railroads,” he said. Vest said the lines had been left to deteriorate prior to shutdown “When we got it in 2012 it was never updates,”

Vest said, “Since that time we’ve done mostly minimal maintenance” Vest said the KYLE was able to continue operations but was never able to handle a fully loaded grain car, box cars or flats. “That really put our customers and us at a disadvantage,” he said.

All that is about to change now.

Vest said the KYLE has been working with the Kansas DOT and federal agencies to secure “significant funding” that will allow the short line railroad to upgrade to heavy gauge track, heavy ballast and new ties.

“Yes, we have been able to successfully go after federal grants,” Vest said. Though the rail official would not say exactly how much money the railroad did receive, he said it was well in the millions of dollars.

With the funding Vest said the KYLE would be: replacing lightweight rale with heavy rail; replace and upgrade bridges and install new ross ties and ballast. “It’s our goal to be able to run fully loaded cars down the Belleville branch and at normal highway speeds,” Vest said. “Carrying more and getting there faster is better for our customers,” he added.

Economic Opportunities

The Telescope asked the senior rail official about rumored partnerships with existing as well as proposed industries in North Central Kansas. Specifically, he was asked if the KYLE had any plans to work with Nextera, the proposed wind farm company in Republic County.

Vest made no comment on whether the KYLE was working with any existing business industry or ag producers but added the railroad was aware of the Nextera project.

“We are constantly working on new business and with industries,” Vest said. When asked for specifics regarding local sectors he said, “We are looking at local opportunities all of the time. I can assure you our people are engaged.”

Vest said the planned work on the KYLE will begin yet this year and will extend into 2022.