The blast of a train whistle doesn’t bother Angela Younts.
That’s a good trait for the owner of Dukes Recovery to have, as her business sits beside Canfor Southern Pine, the first Horry County company to use local rail service in five years.
“This is going to be a pretty cool thing,” Younts said. “Pretty cool.”
At 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, a red locomotive slowly pulled into Canfor’s loading station. The train was the first to venture into the area since R.J. Corman Railroad Group purchased the line in August.
This is going to be a pretty cool thing.
Angela Younts, owner of Dukes Recovery
“It means another step to our goals of more economic development, more jobs for our area,” Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said. “It’s just one piece of the entire puzzle.”
The railroad’s previous owner, Carolina Southern, shut down most operations in 2011 because some of its bridges failed to meet new federal standards.
After buying the line, Kentucky-based Corman hoped to have trains moving through the area last year, but October’s heavy rains washed out some of the infrastructure.
Crews worked overtime restoring the tracks and the company spent millions repairing the damaged lines.
The opening was pushed back a few times, including last month, because of maintenance needs and some delays in moving locomotives.
But on Wednesday, a train made its first trip to Canfor to pick up an old rail car, said Bill Henderson, Corman’s vice president of sales and marketing.
It means another step to our goals of more economic development, more jobs for our area. It’s just one piece of the entire puzzle.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus
The car had been sitting at the loading station for years, and the move helped clear the way for trains to begin making regular visits to the lumber mill, possibly as early as next week, said Michael Symons, Canfor’s director of transportation for U.S. operations.
Symons said the restoration of rail service will allow Canfor to serve markets in the Midwest and Northeast. Reaching those areas hasn’t been economically feasible in recent years because of the high cost of trucking.
The trains’ arrival was welcome news.
“It’s going to be good,” he said.
Because locals haven’t seen consistent train traffic in five years, Corman officials have led a safety awareness campaign, reminding drivers to stop and look for locomotives at rail crossings rather than blowing through them.
Henderson spent months contacting civic groups, government officials and various organizations to discuss the importance of safety at rail crossings.
“Our organization is dedicated to operating the safest, most efficient shortline railroad in the nation,” Henderson said in a news release. “We must create a high level of awareness among everyone who lives here and travels through about what it means to be safe around trains.”
When Younts first learned the railroad was changing hands, she worried what it would mean for her towing business, which operates inside the renovated Red Hill train depot.
Once she was assured she could keep her headquarters, the businesswoman was pleased with the idea of looking out the depot window and seeing trains roll by.
“Definitely going to be exciting,” she said. “I can’t wait.”
For the first time in five years, Horry County residents can expect to see train traffic, particularly in the Conway area.
R.J. Corman officials are encouraging the public to follow these safety tips:
-- Drivers should always stop at railroad crossings and look for trains before proceeding.
-- Do not drive around the bars of a crossing gate or beneath them as they are being lowered.
-- Do not play or walk on the railroad tracks.
-- Do not climb onto stationary trains
-- Do not try to climb onto a moving train.