Colorado Pacific Railroad may not have been in the news much lately, but a number of significant things have been going on.
After initially contracting with Kansas-based KO Railroad to be their operator, Colorado Pacific made the decision to not renew their contract that expired at the end of December 2021. That opened up the way for Colorado Pacific to contract with CWC Rail, Inc. to take over as the railroad’s new operator, instead. CWC Rail, owned and operated by Matt Prince, is based in Eads in Kiowa County and is situated along the line that runs from the Kansas border more than 100 miles to the west.
The decision makes sense. Prince is already very familiar with Colorado Pacific operations having been involved, initially through Crouch Engineering, from the beginning of the railroad’s operation. He was the on-site representative responsible for supervising the extensive rehabilitation of the “Towner Line” that runs about 122 miles and then stayed on for FRA inspection and track maintenance once rehabilitation was completed.
When asked what specific duties and responsibilities CWC Rail has assumed as Colorado Pacific’s operator, Prince says, “Everything. We’ll be managing and operating for the ownership. That includes moving trains, maintaining track, business development, community relations… Everything associated with operating a railroad.”
Suffice it to say, Prince has been busy.
With Colorado Pacific’s 2021 completion of two new sidings near NA Junction just east of Boone, Prince has been negotiating arrangements with BNSF and Union Pacific Railroad, finally creating the capacity to set off and pick up loaded and empty freight cars. That translates into a significant advantage for farmers in southeast Colorado as freight will now move more quickly and at a lower cost than in the past.
That project involved construction of approximately 12,000 track feet of rails between the two sidings.
Prince was also recently out of state, laying the groundwork to lease two locomotives that will be painted with the Colorado Pacific logo. It is not known when those leases will be finalized, but the locomotives will be stored in Eads.
Several other projects are in the works, including parking cars in the national network not currently being used on Colorado Pacific’s eleven miles of siding. Also, according to Prince, discussions are being held to create a transload distribution yard for the storage of windmill parts until such time as the materials are needed locally.
“That same service could also apply for various commodities, like, for example, fertilizer,” Prince says. “We’d keep the commodities here and then load to other cars and then to trucks or straight to trucks for distribution.”
Crossroads Agriculture–owned by Colorado Pacific owner, Stefan Soloviev–is building a grain elevator in the east end of Kiowa County near Plainview. The company expects the elevator to be operational by the fall harvest.
Prince, who speaks with Soloviev several times a month, anticipates that the railroad will start running trains once Crossroad Agriculture’s grain elevator is completed. That timing will not only serve farmers wishing to ship product following harvest but will support Soloviev’s operation, as well, given that he owns land that is in production in the eastern end of the county as well as western Kansas.
This will be Soloviev’s second grain elevator in the area with one already open and operating in Kit Carson, roughly twenty miles north of Eads.
When asked if the pandemic caused any delays in the railroad’s operation, Prince estimates that “it put things back about a year”, especially related to construction of the grain elevator that the railroad will primarily serve.
Personally, Prince says he is excited about CWC Rail being hired as operator of the Colorado Pacific Railroad. Not only has he historically spoken of the great potential the railroad has to be of service to local farmers and a profitable venture for all involved, it also allows his family to “extend” their stay in Eads.
“We love it here,” he says. “My kids love school – they love walking to school in the morning and walking home in the evening. They love being able to play in the street without us having to worry. We really do love it here. This is our home.”