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Commerce to roll once again as Lake County railroad line restoration nears completion

Author: 
John Arthur Hutchison | The News-Herald

A short railroad line that has been abandoned since 2002 in the communities of Grand River, Painesville and Painesville Township is close to becoming restored and once again an active source of commerce transportation.

The Great Lake Port Corporation doing business as Grand River Railway is led by partners Terry L. Feichtenbiner, Tom Nord and Dave Kelsch. The group purchased the 2.56 miles of railway from CSX Transportation for $1,647,584 and the transaction closed March 24. At the south end of the line the railroad extends from north to south and starting at the south end it connects with CSX in Painesville. Then it heads north into Painesville Township, then to Grand River Village and then back into the north end of Painesville Township. It does not cross into territory east of the Grand River, so it does not head into Fairport Harbor.

Feichtenbiner said restoration is ongoing to replace ties, clear the railway and improve the functionality and appearance of the railroad line. The goal is to have the railroad line operational in mid-June, he said. “Everyone knows there is a tremendously large amount of industry in the Grand River and Fairport Harbor area, all of that industry will be part of our customer base,” Feichtenbiner said. “We’ll have two locomotives here and we will haul cars that may or may not be owned or leased by the customers.” He said Grand River Railway will do the service on the line and interchange rail traffic to and from the CSX yard in Painesville.

Feichtenbiner has been in the railroad business for 41 years and learned about the abandoned railroad in 2003. That’s when the Ohio Rail Development Commission approached Ohio Central Railroad System, a company where he was the general manager at that time, about operating the abandoned line. “We recognized it had a value,” Feichtenbiner said. “Ultimately, we were committed in other areas.” In 2009, he left Genesee and Wyoming Railroad, which was a successor to Ohio Central. “I decided I was going to get back into trying to get this railroad operating,” he said. “It has been a 6-year process that it has taken.”

Feichtenbiner estimates around 1,700 to 1,800 railroad ties will eventually be replaced. “The railroad will be in good solid shape before we operate and don’t want to have derailments and we want it to look nice,” he said. “We want it to appear obviously improved for the local community so they realize a benefit and not a detraction.” Restoring the railroad line has involved a lot of work including cleaning all the brush and trees off the line, plus walking it many times to mark locations that need replaced or repaired. “We have done a first pass on the entire railroad to mark what we think are the most offending ties,” Feichtenbiner said.

His company is based in Poland, Ohio, for now, but plans are in the works to purchase property in Grand River Village to eventually establish company headquarters. “As commerce increases, the local amount of revenue increases as well along with taxes collected and it brings good things to the community and brings more life,” Feichtenbiner said. Grand River Railway has worked on the project with local governments along with the Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority. Grand River Mayor Christopher Conley said the railroad restoration is a move forward for the community. “It’s definitely a boon for the village,” Conley said. “I see it from my point of view as jobs for Grand River.”

http://www.news-herald.com/general-news/20150522/commerce-to-roll-once-a...