The company will market about 100 million tons of crushed limestone left over from mining operations at Tahawus for use in highway and rail bed construction, Ellis said.
"Rail transport is enjoying a major resurgence at this point," Ellis said. "Rail lines are being reopened in Wisconsin, Texas, Colorado and California. We're handling more traffic now as an industry than in World War II."
Short line rail shipping reached a peak of 14 million carloads in 2006, mirroring an upswing in major freight rail shipping. Volume dropped sharply with the recession in 2008, but has been rising slowly but steadily since then, reaching nearly 8 million carloads in 2010, Whorton said.
Iowa Pacific's two railroads in the Texas panhandle have had massive growth in carloads as a result of expansion of oil and gas drilling, Ellis said. Gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region has benefited the 34-mile Lycoming Valley Railroad in Pennsylvania, which hauls commodities related to the industry. The railroad went from 1,230 carloads in 2009 to 6,880 in 2011, with 20 percent of its traffic volume related to the gas industry.
Even during the economic downturn, railroads have continued making record investments to build and modernize the national rail network, spending more than $20 billion in 2011, according to the Association of American Railroads.
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