Rail line work finally done, ready to grow

IT MAY HAVE TAKEN longer than it took to build the original line in the 19th Century, but the nine-year wait to reopen the Plymouth-Sheboygan Falls rail line in the 21st Century was well worth it.

Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thayer Street culminated in the first train to make the run along the spur to Falls in more than three decades pulling several cars of material for Bemis Mfg. in Sheboygan Falls.

That was fitting, because it was Bemis’ loss of rail service provided through Sheboygan by the Union Pacific in 2006 that kicked off the effort to restore the Plymouth-Falls line.

The economies of shipping raw materials – in this case, plastic pellets used in the manufacture of various products – by rail instead of by truck was the reason Bemis sought help to find an alternative rail shipping method.

The state of Wisconsin, Sheboygan County, the cities of Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls, a number of local businesses and industries, and the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad all stepped up to finance and spearhead the effort to bring the rail line to Sheboygan Falls – which the Union Pacific had not used for more than two decades at that point.

“Our industry is extremely competitive right now, and the logistics and infrastructure give us the resources we need to compete on a global scale,” David Howell of Bemis said of the restored rail service.

“The active line will bring renewed economic opportunity to the area by allowing companies along the railway to cut transportation costs. Shipping by rail is about four times more effi cient than by semi-tractor trailers,” Dane Checolinski of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp. – another major player in the restoration effort – has noted.

Checolinski pointed out that both Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls have existing industrial parks, with available land, located along the revitalized line to attract new business and new jobs.

To preserve existing jobs at industries left hanging by the Union Pacific nearly a decade – companies like Bemis, Richardson and others – would have been reason enough to put the Plymouth-Falls line back in service.

Add to that the potential to fill industrial parks in Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth with new industries that will bring new jobs utilizing rail shipments made the project even more attractive and beneficial.

There were stops and starts along the nine-year path from when the last train rolled into the Bemis plant from Sheboygan along the Union Pacific tracks to this week, when the first train rolled into the Bemis plant from Plymouth along the Wisconsin and Southern tracks.

But in the end, it got done – through a tremendous public-private partnership – and it will be great for Sheboygan County. It’s a green board for economic growth.

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