KANSAS CITY (B)--The Central Kansas Railway, Wichita, intends to abandon another 255 miles of short-line railroads in Kansas, finalizing what many grain elevator operators already suspected, according to a story in the Wichita Eagle.
Included in the company's abandonment plans are lines from Hutchinson to Kingman; from Rago to Harper; from Conway Springs to Lyons; from Garden Plain to Wichita; from Larned to Jetmore; from Coats to Protection; and from Larned to Garfield.
Elevator operators along some of the routes, including the Garden Plain to Wichita and Coats to Protection lines, say the action does not come as a surprise to them.
"We haven't had service we could count on for at least two years," said Danny McLarty, manager of the Protection Co-op Supply in Protection. "Last year, I fought and fought for cars. This year, I just gave up. They win."
Terry Kohler, manager of the Farmers Cooperative Elevator in Garden Plain, said grain has not shipped from the cooperative by train for the past two years.
"We just didn't get dependable service," Kohler said. "And without service that we could count on from the train, we simply switched to trucks. If I had my way, we'd ship everything possible out of here on the train.
"Rail is, without question, the best way to ship grain. But we have to ship it some way and if rail isn't available or dependable, we're left with finding something that works."
Garden Plain and its member cooperatives ship about 5 million bushels of grain annually from Cheney, Garden Plain, Murdock and Kingman, all elevators on the Central Kansas line.
Dale Parsons, manager of the Cairo Co-op, said he used railroad as often as he could and would ship a lot more grain by rail if he could depend on cars.
"I shipped a million bushels by truck this year that I would rather have shipped by rail," he said. "That's 1,000 trucks down highway 54 because the cars weren't here. Last year, we had big shots out here telling us they'd do something to upgrade the track if we would agree to 300 cars a year. I told them I'd agree to 300 cars if they'd guarantee me the service on time. They said they'd get back to me, but they never did."
Two weeks ago, he said, he heard from the railroad again.
"They told me there was going to be an article in the paper I wouldn't like much," he said. "They were talking about this abandonment petition. They told me not to worry..I'd still get service because they were going to reroute the traffic and they were getting money from Wichita and the state to do it. Well, I'm no dumbbell. I know what they are going to do. They are going to abandon the lines, and that's going to be it."
Officials at Central Kansas Railway, Wichita, did not return calls from The Eagle asking for comment on the abandonments.
The proposed abandonment of the seven lines totals 255 miles of track. Since the deregulation of railroads in the early 1980s, more than 2,000 miles of Kansas track have been abandoned, most of it in short lines that were spun off to private owners by either the Burlington Northern Santa Fe or the Union Pacific.
More than half the tracks in Kansas are short lines, compared with a national average of one-fourth of the track in short lines and three-fourths in main lines.