Colorado company acquires Winchester & Western Railroad

The railroad operates in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey.

By Matthew Umstead
mumstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The leaders of one of North America’s largest privately held rail-centric transportation and logistic-services companies celebrated the acquisition of Winchester & Western Railroad Co. at a reception last month in Martinsburg.

Denver-based OmniTRAX Inc. completed the acquisition of the short-line railroad for $105 million from Covia Holdings Corp. on Sept. 11.

The railroad operates in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. OmniTRAX assumed ownership of about 470 railcars as part of the deal.

The Virginia division of Winchester & Western has 53 miles of track running through the Shenandoah Valley and moves about 12,500 carloads per year, with interchanges in Hagerstown, Martinsburg and Winchester, Va., according to OmniTRAX’s website. The New Jersey division has another 47 miles of track and an interchange in Millville, N.J.

Kevin Shuba, CEO of OmniTRAX, said in an interview that the company particularly was attracted to the railroad’s diverse customer base, noting the presence of Procter & Gamble Co. and Argos cement plant, among other companies in Berkeley County.

“I met the folks from Knauf (Insulation) here today, so there’s a lot of diversification in the products,” Shuba said.

He said being able to work with area economic-development officials in a pro-growth community also is attractive to the railroad.

Sandy Hamilton, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, said the Winchester & Western Railroad has been instrumental in attracting economic development to the county over the years.

“It takes trucks off the road, and it’s just an invaluable resource to give our manufacturers … an alternate means of transportation,” Hamilton said. “It’s a very underutilized resource.”

Shuba said there is potential for more growth in the short line railroad’s business.

“We’re talking to a few other potential customers now as well,” he said. “We like this market because one of the things that’s attractive to it is, within 100 miles of here, you have access to 140 million people. That’s a tremendous draw to being in an environment like this.”

Shuba also noted the railroad’s access to Norfolk Southern Corp. in Hagerstown and CSX Corp. in Martinsburg and Winchester.

The dual service serves an advantage for shippers, giving them leverage from a pricing standpoint, Shuba said.

The railroad, which has a total of 50 employees, also intends to operate out of new offices in Martinsburg by mid-2020, according to the company.

The Winchester & Winchester Railroad’s history dates to 1916, with the first train taking track in January 1918, according to OmniTRAX’s website.

The OmniTRAX-managed portfolio includes more than 20 other railroads. OmniTRAX is an affiliate of The Broe Group of Denver.