Official: Boom at city railyard tied to drilling

City Council learned Thursday, if its members did not already know, the Newberry Railyard, primarily through Marcellus Shale industries and natural gas exploration businesses, has become the largest of its kind between Harrisburg and Buffalo, N.Y.

It’s prepared to produce more tax revenue and jobs for Williamsport, Lycoming County and the Williamsport Area School District.

That became possible as council unanimously granted permission to the SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority to subdivide a property at 2916 Reach Road.

The authority intends to sell the land and the fully-functional industrial building on it, formerly the James Woods factory, to a prospective buyer, according to Jeff Stover, the authority executive director.

Stover and Jerry Walls, former county planning director who serves as the chairman to SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority, explained how the railyard has reached its maximum occupancy. “It’s full,” he said, adding it’s outgrown its existing space.

The land adjacent to the former factory abutted the railyard. Three rail spurs lead to the Unimim frac sand transload company which has storage silos. Railcars enter on the spurs, and unload the sand, which is conveyed onto the silos. Tractor trailers are filled up with the sand in a matter of 2 and half minutes.

While the former James Wood site isn’t needed by the rail cars, selling it to another industry and continuing to attract a significant number of customers to the west side industrial sites is good for business, according to Walls.

City Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith noted his view of the yard to be a modern facility which shows what “progress can be made and can be done.”

The railyard supports more than 20 area industries, has 22 miles of track, contains 109 acres, and extends for 1.5 miles from end to end.

The yard is owned by the rail authority and operated by Lycoming Valley Railroad Co.