July 6 |
July 6 (Reuters) – The railroad whose freight cars derailed
and burst into an oil-fueled fire in a small Canadian town on
Saturday is headed by a Chicago-area railroad veteran whose
career included work with railways in Australia, New Zealand,
Britain, Estonia and Poland.
Edward A. Burkhardt’s Rail World Inc is a privately held
rail management and investment firm based outside Chicago. The
little-known Rosemont, Illinois, company also has current ties
to freight railways in Poland.
It controls the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway whose
train carrying crude oil fell off the rails in Lac-Megantic, a
picturesque lakeside town in Quebec, killing at least one person
and leveling dozens of buildings. The railroad said it had had
reports of more deaths, and Canadian officials also said they
feared the death toll would go higher.
Burkhardt is president of Rail World and chairman of the
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Burkhardt said he
expected claims would “be a lot of money,” but the company and
its insurer could handle it financially.
Burkhardt said the railroad had had “a tough few years”
during the 2007-2008 recession when demand fell for its usual
cargo of paper and forest products. The increased demand to
carry oil from western Canada and North Dakota, had helped. “The
business had been getting a bit better.”
He was named Railroader of the Year by Railway Age magazine
in 1999, based on his successes at Wisconsin Central, a
2,000-mile (3,220-km) midwestern rail line in the 1980s after
Washington began deregulating the U.S. railroad industry.
Burkhardt’s privatization approach spread to deals with
investment firms to pick up government-run railroads in New
Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia, according to media
reports at the time. The deal in New Zealand later led to
Burkhardt being named the honorary consul for that country in
the Midwest, a role he continues to hold today.
But as profits from the overseas ventures cooled and the
company’s once-soaring share price slumped, Burkhardt was later
ousted from Wisconsin Central’s chief executive spot.
His Rail World purchased the assets of what became the
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway out of bankruptcy in 2003.
The regional rail company has 510 route miles of track in
Maine, Vermont and Quebec, and employs about 170 people,
according to the company’s website. It runs about 15 trains
daily, and has a fleet of 26 locomotives.
The railway has had eight incidents of hazardous material
spills reported since February 2005, including instances of
spilled diesel, gas oil, sulfur and other materials, according
to data compiled by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials
The largest of those incidents was an approximately
100-gallon spill of gas oil from a tanker near Easton, Maine,
about 155 miles north of Bangor, in April 2011, the agency said.
None of these incidents involved people being injured, according
to media reports.
The railway’s roots date back to 1864, when a group of
businessmen acquired a charter from the state of Maine to build
a railroad between Bangor and Moosehead Lake, according to the
(Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter and Scott Haggett; editing by
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