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Business is booming for the Santa Maria Valley Railroad - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Business is booming for the Santa Maria Valley Railroad

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You may notice more trains rolling through the Santa Maria Valley lately.

The Santa Maria Valley Railroad (SMVRR) was originally built to move asphalt in the early 1900s, but today it is moving all sorts of products. 

"When the railroad was laid out in 1911, the City of Santa Maria convinced the railroad to cut through Santa Maria so they were able to get rail service with the standard gauge railroad," explained Rob Himoto, Santa Maria Valley Railroad President. 

The railroad was successful until the 1950s when a series of events led to it becoming nearly defunct. But in 2006, the Coast Belle Railcorp purchased the railroad from the Allan Hancock family and began to rebuild it.

"In order for a community like this to land large industry, you need rail service," said Himoto. "It needs more than just trucking something large volume and this community is capable of attracting something like this." 

"The primary driver to build in Santa Maria is, we think this is a strong market," said Tony Caetano, Lineage Logistics Plant Manager. "We already have some customers in this area and we think that Santa Maria could be the strawberry capital of the world. With that being said, the ability to access rail and being off of the 101 is a huge factor in where we would decide to place new facilities."

"We're here in the process of building a brand new trust facility right here at this location and the reason it's being built here is because of the rail service, so we're counting on the railroad being there for us and it's a big part of our future here in Santa Maria," said Rudi Lokkart, Hayward Lumber Company General Manager.

"What we would like to do is have access to send out more on rail," added Caetano. "We would like to triple our output on rail under the current configuration. We can't do that with the partnership that we have. We'll have to make a capital investment with the railroad company so that we can move the type of volume we're projecting over the next 5 years."

In October, Coast Belle will celebrate ten years operating the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, and they are continuing to look toward the future.

"The turning point was really when we decided to really give the customers any type of service they wanted and it converted our customers that were only 10% rail to today 90% rail, so that's a lot of our growth was current customers really believing in us, and once again, we can be the economic powerhouse of the Central Coast," said Himoto.

Railroad officials say 2015 was the biggest year ever for the SMVRR. In fact, the longest train in the railroad's history, 66 cars, made its course.

Related links:
Santa Maria Valley Railroad

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