MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Officials in Berkeley County on Friday celebrated the completion of a $10 million railroad spur project that is expected to help a cement producer ship thousands of tons of product each year via rail instead of area highways.
About 100 people attended the official dedication and ribbon cutting for the 1.2-mile rail spur, which connects the Essroc cement plant to Winchester & Western Railroad just south of Martinsburg.
“It’s a day where we finally put the last pieces of a puzzle together,” said Brian Costenbader, Essroc’s senior director of logistics.
The completion of the new rail connection follows about $650 million in upgrades that Nazareth, Pa.-based Essroc has made at the Capitol Cement Corp. since purchasing it 2002, Costenbader said.
Essroc, a member of Italcementi Group, also has spent about $25 million on capital improvements at seven of 14 off-site distribution facilities in coordination with the investments made at the Martinsburg plant, Costenbader said.
William P. “Phil” Light, president of Winchester & Western Railroad Co., said the railroad added 11 employees to its payroll in order to provide rail service to Essroc, which is one of the world’s largest cement producers.
With the plant upgrades in place, the Martinsburg plant is capable of producing 1.8 million tons of cement annually, and Essroc officials said the rail spur would help the company distribute the additional product beyond West Virginia’s neighboring states. The plant was producing 800,000 to 900,000 tons of product per year before Essroc’s investment, Costenbader said.
Light said the railroad, which operates a rail line between Gore, Va., and Hagerstown, contributed about $3 million to the project, which provides Essroc with a new rail connection to CSX in Martinsburg near Tavern Road and Norfolk Southern’s rail line in Hagerstown.
Before the construction of 6,378 feet of track across U.S. 11 to connect to Winchester & Western, Essroc only had access to the CSX rail line via the Frog Hollow spur, which Costenbader said will remain open.
All rail shipments of cement currently leave the plant via the new spur, which is expected to carry 6,000 rail cars per year, Costenbader said. The first shipment via the new spur was made July 25, according to Essroc.
Each rail car can carry about 100 tons of cement, four times as much as one truck, Costenbader said.
In addition to the spur, Essroc’s upgrades at the Martinsburg plant included about 18,000 feet of new railroad track that loops around the industrial site.
Costenbader said Essroc decided not to upgrade the Frog Hollow spur because the company deemed it would have been too disruptive to the community.
Instead, Essroc purchased more than 80 acres west of the plant, including Pikeside Plaza along U.S. 11, for the new rail spur. Hagerstown-based Amtrac Railroad Contractors of Maryland Inc. was the general contractor for the spur, Costenbader said.
State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, said the private venture between Winchester & Western and Essroc was not only important to their business, but evidence that Essroc believes in the community.
Berkeley County Council President William L. “Bill” Stubblefield said the project’s private financing made it even more impressive.
“My hat’s off to these folks,” Stubblefield said.