Estonia Bound Locomotives
From Mexico to Beaumont to Estonia. Eagle Lake, Tx 5-24-2002 On UP Glidden Sub
FAIX 3614 DPU on GE Locomotive Train. FAIX#3607 2nd Motor In Consist
DAN WALLACH , The Enterprise 12/22/2002 BEAUMONT - Chalk one up for international trade in which the Port of Beaumont played a roundhouse role.
Seventy-seven locomotives refurbished in Mexico for use in the Baltic nation of Estonia were loaded in seven different shipments this year at the Port of Beaumont.
The most recent shipment of 12 were loaded this past week aboard the heavy-lift ship Wiebke for the voyage to the Estonian port of Tallinn on the Gulf of Finland.
The locomotives will become part of the Baltic Rail Services rail fleet.
Tom Flanagan, who has the port's loading and unloading contractor, said he had heard of the potential business from other customers and helped attract it to the Port of Beaumont.
"It's a very interesting piece of business," he said. "They were going to move through a Mexican port or through a nonunion port in Houston. We made a proposal to move it through Beaumont and we lined up rail transportation through Kansas City Southern that was cheaper."
The locomotives weren't driven to the port. The locomotives were loaded aboard a unit train, which means they were the sole cargo aboard, and brought to Beaumont by way of KCS and Tex-Mex Railroad tracks.
Because European railroads are different gauges, or widths, than railroads in North America, the engines went to a plant in Mexico for refurbishing equipped with wheels that fit North American gauges.
The engines had to come back out equipped with wheels that would fit tracks that will run through Russia.
Estonia is a small country and one of its main businesses is rail transit traffic, which takes material from the vast Russian interior to Baltic ports.
However, there is similarity between Russian and North American rail practices, according to the railroad trade publication "Railway Gazette International" in its March 2002 issue, and that allows for the use of used locomotives from North America even though they need wheels that first their track width.
The engines were resting on wooden blocks up along the new Harbor Island Wharf extension, awaiting a lift from a crane onto the Wiebke.
Port director Chris Fisher said the port's investment of $11 million in the wharf extension is what helped the port to attract the business.
"Without it, we wouldn't have been able to handle this nearly as efficiently," he said.
Another major element is the port's connections to major rail lines that allowed for easy shipment and delivery, Fisher said.
Some of the shipments of the engines were handled by the Union Pacific Railroad and some by KCS and Tex-Mex.
Both UP and KCS deliver directly to the port and both have direct connections to Mexico.
This delivery completes the contract, and Flanagan said he hopes it represents the beginning of an ongoing relationship.
"It shows Beaumont has excellent rail connections and excellent facilities," he said. "One of our big jobs is to line up shipments that will come here at competitive prices."
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©The Beaumont Enterprise 2002