Kudos to the Georgia Midland Railroad. Here's a piece from the Americus-Times Recorder:
Americus-based railroad named Short Line Railroad of the Year
From Staff Reports
AMERICUS — Railway Age magazine has named Americus-based Georgia Midland Railroad, as 2006 Short Line Railroad of the Year, and Rochester, N.Y.- based Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad as 2006 Regional Railroad of the Year. The awards will be presented at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s annual meeting on April 24 in Orlando, Fla.
“This year’s award winners epitomize short line railroading at its best,” said Robert P. DeMarco, senior vice president and group publisher of Railway Age’s parent company, Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp.
“The turnarounds experienced by both carriers were more than just financial. Their impressive maintenance, operations, safety, and productivity improvements are thanks to the employees’ dedication, teamwork and perseverance. In all respects, their efforts paid off. Railway Age is honored to present these railroads with the industry’s top small-road achievement awards.”
The winning entry for short line railroad of the year was submitted by Georgia Midland Railroad (GMR) President and CEO Brad Lafevers. The railroad is a subsidiary of Atlantic Western Transportation, Inc. (AWT).
“During the due diligence phase of our acquisition of GMR in 2003, we found a deteriorated physical plant, discouraged customers who were seeking other transportation modes, and employees who did not possess the training to perform in a safe and efficient manner,” said Lafevers. But this did not deter them.
Lafevers and AWT’s Vice President and COO Duane Broxterman recognized the potential of the 100-mile railroad, which operates in four central and eastern Georgia segments. In February 2004, they set out to turn it around.
Intense marketing and safety-training efforts began, and GMR took on extensive maintenance work. According to Lafevers, the first day of hi-rail inspections produced more than 20 slow orders, and in many areas, maintenance-of-way employees had to walk due to broken rails and striped rail joints. But the work was completed, and GMR re-established lost traffic and rebuilt customer relationships.
“We found customers eager to utilize the railroad and willing to commit to rail shipments,” Lafevers said.
After just 10 months, GMR achieved its first profitable year, and has operated for the past two years without a personal injury or reportable train accident. In 2005, GMR saw carloads grow 39.5 percent, freight revenue rise 51.1 percent and total revenue increase 52.7 percent over 2003 results. It’s operating ratio improved by 40.2 percentage points, dropping to 77.8 percent.
The GMR is a sister line to the Heart of Georgia Railroad (HOG), and Lafevers pointed to the effort that employees of both railroads undertook to make this award possible.
“In order to gain inherent synergies, many HOG employees perform the same tasks for the GMR, and I would like to recognize the employees of both AWT properties that were so instrumental in this achievement, said Lafevers.
Customer Service, Beck Maloney; accounting, Leisa Howell; safety, training and train management, Dusty Carnes and Jamie Hagens; track repair and maintenance, Calvin Jarriel and Mike Lee; signal repair and maintenance, Mark Orsino and John Clark; train operations, Rob Reason, Bennie Givins, Brian Terry, David Womack, Ken Mills and Mark Lewis.
“As we enter 2006, we are excited about the future,” summed up Lafevers. “Several new industrial prospects could announce facilities on the railroad this year, and our customer base continues to bring more business to our line. With a renewed vigor of the railroad, we have the resources to continue improvements to the track, and the railroad employees are committed to their superlative safety effort.”
The awards will be announced in the April issue of Railway Age. Railway Age is a monthly magazine circulated at the management levels of North American freight and passenger railroads. Published since 1856, it is the transportation industry’s oldest trade magazine. Emphasis is placed on technology, operations, strategic planning, marketing and other issues such as legislative and labor/management developments of interest to railway management, railway suppliers and consultants.