HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Bill Henderson with RJ Corman said the company is working around the clock to get the rail lines up and running, and that the lines were in worse shape than they thought. Now the company is asking for a federal grant that could help upgrade the lines and get the trains moving faster.
"Because at ten miles an hour... they can't make any money." said Joe Williams, a retired conductor for CSX who now spends his time building and collecting model trains. And he says he knows a thing or two about how they work.
"The federal government dictates how fast you can go and it's all down to the conditions of the rails. From what I understand, Corman is going for a class three railroad service which means every fifth tie has to be in real good shape to go ten miles an hour."
Williams said in order for the train to benefit the area and the company, it will have to go a lot faster than that. And that means crews will need to change or upgrade nearly all the ties. That's why RJ Corman owners said they need nearly fifteen million dollars in federal grants in order to get the lines where they need them to be.
Dr. Henry Lowenstein is a CCU Professor and member of the Horry County Transportation committee who elected officials appointed to research the rail lines and give feedback. He said he supports the push for the grant, and the economic benefits it could bring to the county.
"The purpose for the tiger grant is not just to repair the railroad but upgrade it. We have a railroad today that once they get it operating, it will be at a 20 mile an hour speed, that's the minimum speed of a freight railroad, but that's not ideal." said Lowenstein.
Lowenstein says he's worked closely with RJ Corman and believes the trains would need to move faster in order to reduce shipping time and keep traffic from getting backed up near the tracks. He said the rail road business would create huge potential for growth in our area, which is why it's important that they move fast enough.
"At twenty miles an hour, that's five hours or something down there. You want a freight railroad that's moving at least forty five miles an hour, but to bring that rail up to that speed, you're going to need the higher capacity rail to straighten out some of the curves. This railroad was built in the eighteen hundreds."
RJ Corman reps said they're still planning to open the lines at the beginning of March, but will have to wait on the grant before additional upgrades can be made.