Port-rail board accepts bid, hears about explosion

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Hoosier Southern plans Schweizer Fest train rides

TELL CITY - Perry County Port Authority Board members voted at a May 15 regular meeting to accept a bid for work on a bridge near Anderson, learned about an employee's hazardous-materials training and heard about train trips to be offered during Schweizer Fest.

A $340,799 bid from Cooper Rail Service of Huntingburg was the lowest of five received for work an engineer estimated will cost $360,000, according to Dick Neumann, vice president and chief executive officer of the port-rail agency. Other bids ranged from $392,165 from Osmose Railroad Service Inc. of Madison, Wisc., to $674,750 from Lakes and Rivers Contracting, Chicago.

The board's acceptance of Cooper's bid was contingent on an attorney's review. Neumann said the work is to be completed before Aug. 1, so it won't interfere with the Schweizer Fest plans.

Hoosier Southern Railroad Engineering Supervisor Bobby Froehlich underwent training at an emergency-response-training center near Pueblo, Colo., to learn how to deal with emergencies such as leaks of hazardous materials, he said. Neumann said the approximately $15,000 tuition cost was paid by Norfolk-Southern Railroad, so the port authority paid only for associated costs, such as those for travel.

The CEO showed board members a video tape demonstrating the content of the week-long course, conducted on a site featuring four full-scale derailments and air-dispersion modeling.

Froehlich said the training included "how to set up a unified command structure if you're the first one on scene" and how to stop leaks in various types of tanks.

A controlled explosion kicked off one training exercise, he said, and surprised the trainees because they had their backs to the area where it occurred.

In other business, Neumann reported volumes of materials going through the Port of Tell City has been "lousy," and he was in discussions with port customers about the reasons. Among the variables affecting traffic, he said, are a weak dollar and a lot of pig iron being exported.

Neumann expected a barge to transit the port the following week, but said, "I don't see us meeting shipping expectations for the near future."

He had received $184,000 in Industrial Rail Service Funding, he said, calling it fortunate "because the total money available from the state was $1.3 million, and of 12 projects submitted, only six were approved."

Among improvements to come from the funding will be replacement of 2,000 rail ties and replacement of three miles of track, which will contribute to ongoing upgrades to accommodate 286,000-pound rail cars, he said.

Neumann also noted his agency will move 12,000 to 15,000 tons of flat steel beginning in June or July. The material, which was being moved through Owensboro by CSX Corp., he said, "will be the first time we've moved rail to truck" and "will be new business for us; it shows we're intermodal."

The Schweizer Fest runs will feature a coach and caboose, Neumann said. The first several will be for Schweizer Fest Committee, chamber of commerce and Kiwanis Club members, but rides for the general public will be conducted the afternoons of Aug. 7, 8 and 9. Hoosier Southern employees and their families will have an opportunity to ride to Lincoln City and back the following Sunday.