MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon no longer sits on a rail line connecting it to population centers north and south. However, rail service is still important to several local businesses. The city is served by an Ohio Central Railroad line that runs north from Newark.
Service to Mount Vernon was interrupted for several weeks recently when high water damaged a bridge near St. Louisville by undercutting a bridge abutment.
Ohio Central Vice President of Commercial Marty Pohlod explained that divers had to assess the damage so that the abutment could be reinforced and the superstructure realigned.
“We were able to get a contractor on it right away and get it back in service,” Pohlod said.
Pohlod said they have some “good steady customers” in Mount Vernon and they knew those customers were anxious to get rail service back.
“We appreciate the support we’ve had from our customers and the community,” Pohlod said.
Rail service is “very important” to Knox County, said Steve Waers, president of the Area Development Foundation of Knox County, but, he added, it’s hard to put a figure on the value.
Waers said two companies use the line every day: International Paper on Granville Road and Mauser USA on Commerce Drive, and another, the Central Ohio Farmers Co-op on West Gambier Street, is a regular customer.
International Paper makes corrugated boxes, and Mauser USA, makes plastic shipping containers. Both use the rail to bring in raw materials for their operations.
“I wish we had more sites” with rail service, Waers said.
The biggest advantage, he said, is in the cost of shipping large amounts long distances. For shipping in state, whether it is cheaper or more expensive than hauling by trucks depends on the weight and bulk of the cargo.
“I see rail being used more and more in the future because of increases in shipping costs,” Waers said.
Joe Sims, International Paper site manager, said they receive an average of about eight cars per day, five days a week. Most are bringing in rolls of paper from the company’s mills, which are then used to make the shipping containers. In addition, all the scrap from the process is baled and shipped out on railroad cars for recycling.