A railroad that hauls freight and operates passenger routes to and from scenic Jim Thorpe has purchased a nearby fire truck manufacturing plant that is set to close.
Reading and Northern Railway last week announced the $2 million purchase of the KME Fire Apparatus facility from REV Group Inc. in Nesquehoning – a Carbon County borough like Jim Thorpe about 8 miles down Highway 209.
REV Group announced last September that it was closing the former Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corp. plant. in Nesquehoning, affecting 388 jobs. The company said it will continue operations there until all pending orders are filled, which is expected to happen by this month.
As part of its purchase agreement, Reading & Northern says it has allowed REV Group to lease the buildings on site to complete the construction of the last fire trucks to come out of the original Kovatch factory.
The nine-building, 10-acre complex sits in the middle of the 400-mile Reading & Northern rail system which runs from Reading in the south to Hazleton, Scranton and Mehopany in the north. Kovatch’s location is along the rail line that Reading & Northern purchased in 2021 from Carbon County, a rail line that now connects the Reading and Lehigh divisions of the railroad.
It is Reading & Northern’s latest investment in its growing passenger and freight business, the latter set to increase with renewed interest in Pennsylvania anthracite coal due to energy crises fueled by Russia’s war with Ukraine, according to a press release from Reading & Nord.
“We are investing in our future and the future of the communities we serve,” railroad founding owner and CEO Andy Muller Jr. said in a statement. “Our business is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, we believe we will enjoy double-digit carload and revenue growth for years to come, fueled in large part by growing global demand for Pennsylvania anthracite coal. We have always been known as “the anthracite route” and this year the world has decided to buy its coal from reliable producers in Pennsylvania instead of Russia. We expect our coal business to grow significantly in 2022 and beyond. »
Earlier this month, Reading & Northern announced that it was putting its T-1 class steam locomotive #2102 into service after a five-year rebuild. The railway’s steam crew continues to prepare for the premiere of 2102 Iron horse rides May 28 excursion from Reading Outer Station to Jim Thorpe and back. (Reading & Northern also operates Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway trips from Jim Thorpe which was the subject of a battle with the borough over taxes just before the coronavirus pandemic.)
In 2020, Reading & Northern completed construction of the new Nesquehoning Bridge Phase 2 at a cost of $14 million. And after buying the Carbon County rail line for $4.7 million, Reading & Northern spent more than $5 million upgrading the track.
Reading & Northern says that among its former Kovatch buildings, several have heavy crane systems capable of lifting equipment of varying weights.
“We plan to locate significant portions of our freight and passenger operations in Nesquehoning, which is in such a perfect location for our railroad and our employees,” Muller said. “We will now have the ability to expand our equipment maintenance and repair facilities, as well as provide much needed storage space. With over 1,600 freight cars and our ever-growing passenger fleet, which now consists of 47 cars, over 70 motor vehicles and countless other equipment for our track department and other departments , we lacked space to keep our equipment in good condition. maintained.”
Based in Port Clinton, Schuylkill County, Reading & Northern says it has grown over three decades to serve more than 75 customers in Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland counties , Schuylkill and Wyoming in Pennsylvania; employs 300 people; and manage more than 34,000 freight cars and 225,000 excursion train passengers.
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Kurt Bresswein can be reached at [email protected].