In August of 2008, the Lycoming Valley Railroad was already growing and expanding. Then the railroad started to get business from Marcellus Shale development. Although the firm's leaders knew something big might be coming, Todd Hunter said they had no idea of the extent of the possible business.
Hunter, director of marketing for North Shore Railroad Co., of which the Lycoming Valley Railroad is part, has seen the railroad's business expand about 40 percent since those days in August.
The railroad - and four other railroads within the network of operations of North Shore Railroad Co. - are owned by the SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority, according to Hunter.
"We didn't have an appreciation of how big it would be," Hunters said of the shale's impact. "We started appreciating it in 2009 when we saw a shift mid-ear, where these different companies started getting interested in long-term leases. For us, it went beyond curiousity into a business that was driven by growth."
The first carload was shipped out in 2008 and within a year, the railroad was hauling 300 cars a month with various sizes of pipe, drilling lubricants and mass quantities of "frac" sand, according to the railroad.
The gas industry is one of the main industries driving the railroad's expansion, but many of the contractors with whom they deal are local companies. Gas companies haul equipment in by rail and then transport it by truck to various sites, Hunter said.
"Most of these companies need to come in by rail and then trucked locally to rail sites," Hunter said. "This fits into our vision of long haul rail and short haul truck. The days of rail abandonment are over."
One reason rail is used for hauling the commodities is because it saves on expenses. One railcar can hold four truckloads of frac sand, a much-needed commodity for the drilling process, according to Hunter.
"For every railcar coming in, four truckloads go out. Rail is the more economical option. Frac sand is not a local commodity. Some sand is coming in from as far as Saskatchewan," Hunter said.
The Lycoming railyard sits on 109 acres and 20 miles of track. The site is a mile and a half long and trucks line up throughout the site to load frac sand and transport it to sites scattered across the region.
"We have been in business for more than 24 years and have expanded and continued the rail infrastructure in the northcentral Pennsylvania area and are adding to it," said Richard Robey, chairman of the railroad company. "It doesn't look like the expansion is coming to an end."
About 85 people are employed at the railroad and there are openings for a few more. There openings for track maintenance workers and conductors and engineers, according to Hunter.
Marcellus Shale is impacting more than others coming to the area to work, many are being hire locally, according to Hunter.
Sooner Pipe, which will be coming into Montoursville soon, will not only utilize rail, but they will also be hiring locally, according to Hunter.
Many others are as well.
With the railroad's increase in business, they will purchase vehicles and locomotives this year to keep up with the pace of the growth, according to Hunter.