Jackinbox1 wrote:On a different note of freight service, does Bridgewater Power Co. seem like a potential customer, along with Person's concrete not far north of that? I always thought no, because they are so far from the NEGS facilities in Canterbury.
Vanishingly unlikely. Bridgewater's a very small biomass plant. They wouldn't generate enough carloads to pay NEGS's bills for running that far north, or for paying back the trackage rights fees for NEGS to extend its territory north of Tilton. In the unlikely event there's ever a need for occasional drop-offs of wood pellets or whatever as a second-source for fuel, that's the sort of thing Hobo can very easily qualify itself to handle.
Persons has the disadvantage of the tracks being at the rump end of the sand pit, the mixing machinery being a half-mile down NH 49 from the grade crossing, and several small hills chopping up the mining area between machinery and tracks. On Google 3D view it doesn't even look physically possible to snake a rail siding through there. And that's assuming there's enough carloads to begin with to even go to the trouble of trying to link them, which is very unlikely. Persons also has other rail-accessible locations in NH, and has never seen fit to actually use them. One on the NH Main in Bow staring across the tracks from the coal plant, and one in LIttleton on the recently-abandoned NHCR trackage. If neither of those got any freight action, then they probably aren't a company much inclined to do any rail shipping.
It's not like NEGS hasn't tried to generate business. They sold the crap out of the NH Main when they were running it, spent better part of 20 years trying to recruit someone out in Penacook, and actively tried to get somebody else in Tilton. No takers. And even 3M is a very small plant. Impressive storage capacity on their siding, but the plant itself is less than 50,000 sq. feet. That's not going to net many plastic pellets tankers even if firing at full capacity. The business just isn't there. If NEGS couldn't squeeze blood from stone when they were bigger it's not possible for them to do any better with no full-time staff, 1 locomotive, and paychecks that arrive once every month or two.
For that reason I can't even see PAR bidding for the job in NEGS's wake. It's 20 miles of extra track to qualify on for a monthly light move to one customer. Their frequencies into downtown Concord are pretty anemic as it is, and you can't throw a stone on the NH Main without hitting an empty siding they farted away so they (or their successors) have a lot of work to do shooting some free throws to recruit some abutting mainline business before light moves on marginal branches become any Class II's idea of energy well spent. I know there were those rumors of them being interested in the small paper mill at the end of the 15-mile unused portion of the Hillsborough Branch, but that's not analogous to potential interest in Tilton. Billerica HQ has its quixotic longstanding feud with Milford & Bennington RR, so there was a lot of tactical static in those rumors designed to stir the pot with M&B. Second, it's a paper mill, the type of traffic PAR specializes in...so whether their true interest was genuine or not there are some strategic synergies with their main revenue base on that Hillsborough Branch customer. 3M doesn't really fit that traffic profile mold in the same way and wouldn't justify the superfluous running miles like a small paper mill would. Third, their NH jobs get run out of Nashua Yard at the start of the Hillbilly Branch so the extra running miles past Wilton to the mill aren't that
far from home base. Whereas they'd be very very far from home spending a few hours on slow track going Nashua-Concord, and then tacking on another 20 miles beyond that for 1 or 2 measly tankers at 3M.
If NEGS (likely) disappears in the next few years, either rail service isn't so near and dear to 3M that they'd do much more than shrug...or, NHDOT can sit down with 3M and Hobo, see what's in everyone's best interests, see if a handful of one-offs from Concord interchange to 3M can be set up without triggering common carrier status for Hobo, and perhaps roll that up as leverage to get Hobo direct access and crew qualifications to Concord interchange for doing their own equipment swaps and pocketing passenger trackage rights for future special excursions to Concord. Certainly don't think the world is going to end for 3M or Hobo if NEGS gives up the ghost. There's lots of cost-neutral options for protecting the White Mountain Branch. It's just not going to involve new customers, because that's been tried before and the total universe of theoretically possible carloads just isn't there in enough carload quantity to pay the cost of fuel/fees/etc.