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Railroads plays a key role in the Buckeye State

February 26, 2014
By ROBERT A. DEFRANK - Times Leader Staff Writer , Times Leader

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Rails have played a key role in the development of the state and of the country's industry. With the influx of oil and gas business, the rail industry is called to continue contributing to the Buckeye State's prosperity.

Port Authority Director Larry Merry said the area's rails have risen to the occasion by continuing their traditional roles and adjusting to new needs.

"The rail industry as a whole has adapted," he said. "At least providing a lot better service than what historically was one of the issues with rail. There's a lot better tracking. When you look at some of the regional rail services, they tend to be able to because they're in a geographic area that provides better service sometimes.

"Historically, the rail was maybe a little inefficient as far as timing," he said. "They're getting the rail service down to a lot now where you can almost get just in time delivering."

He noted the railroads operating in the county, including Wheeling and Lake Erie through the north of Bellaire into Benwood and North Fork Southern to Monroe County.

"Service I've found here in Belmont County with the Wheeling/Lake Erie Railroad to be very good, very responsive. And with Northward Southern, for it being a very large railroad company, service has been good too."

Merry pointed out the demand for coal as one major source of work for rail services.

"There's a lot of coal moved through Belmont County. That historically is one of the things that railroads did," he said in addition, the railways have been called on to move sand for the fracking industry and pipeline for oil and gas production. Aggregate stones have been in demand in Martins Ferry. "Three years ago there was really no stone being shipped in, and now there's unit trains coming in of stone, so rail is continuing to be busier and a lot more car movement and shipments are being moved through Eastern Ohio."

DeFrank can be reached at



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