In the community, Local government

Vale railroad seeks state grant funding to replace section of obsolete track

VALE – The Oregon Eastern Railroad plans to replace about one mile of rail line between Vale and the EP Minerals plant northwest of Vale as part of a long-term project to improve efficiency and safety.

The firm intends to apply for funds through the state Connect Oregon program. The program provides money to aviation, rail and marine projects.

The Malheur County Court recently approved a letter supporting the rail project.

“We are going to put some ties in and refurbish the yard there in Vale,” said Bruce Carswell, senior vice president for the railroad.

Carswell said the railroad received funds through the Connect Oregon program in 2021 for the initial phase of the project and replaced 1.2 miles of track between Vale and EP Minerals.

He said the total cost of the next project is about $1.1 million. Of that, he said about $650,000 will come from the state while the railroad will furnish $450,000.

He said the railroad is finalizing its application to the state.

The upgrade project is needed because the last five miles of track to the EP Minerals plant from Vale is obsolete.

“It does not support the current standard gross vehicle weight of rail cars. We’ve been working long term to try to upgrade that,” he said.

If the company receives the Connect Oregon grant and completes the work it will still have to refurbish another two more miles of track.

 “We could obviously submit a project and do it all at once but we don’t want to get too far over our skis with the amount of money we put into it,” he said.

He said if the state grant is awarded, the railroad would tackle the project next year.

He said the 2021 project faced a six-month delay because of the shortage of rails and ties.  

“Material availability is always a bit of a challenge,” he said.

Carswell said Oregon Eastern Railroad employs about six people in Vale.

The railroad runs 27 miles from EP Minerals to Ontario where it connects with the Union Pacific Railroad main line.

Besides EP Minerals, the railroad serves Lineage Logistics a temperature-controlled logistics company, Dentinger Feed & Seed and Farmers Supply Co-op in Vale.

“Lineage is one of our largest customers. They supply refrigerated cars to Kraft Heinz in Ontario (now owned by Simplot) and they’ve established an operating base in our railroad in Vale. They do preventative maintenance and repairs and we stage cars for them,” said Carswell.

Oregon Eastern Railroad is a subsidiary of Jaguar Transport Holdings of Joplin Missouri.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.