HAMLET — The mechanical department of CSX, consisting of the car and locomotive shop, never associates with its customers. It’s usually a job that the transportation department handles, but on Tuesday, customers of Unimin, The Plastek Group, Trinity Manufacturing and Enviva were able to personally thank those who make sure their products get shipped all over the world.
Jeff Smith, contract foreman with CSX, said the day was more than just about thanking the customers. It was also a celebration of 500 days without an accident in the mechanical department — a feat that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“It was a good turnout,” said carman Chris Hodges. “It was interesting to see what the customers had to say about the product. This is also good to hit the 500-day milestone. That’s a plus”
All of the industries along N.C. 177 that CSX ships for are up and running except Enviva, said Senior General Foreman Ed Howze. Enviva’s plant manager Steve Moore was one of the guest speakers for Tuesday’s appreciation day.
“Enviva is the newest industry,” Howze said. “They just cleared and cut a 100-acre field on (N.C.) 177, and now they’re gonna start bulldozing and actually starting building the plant. Now, what this plant does is make little wood pellets that you burn in a stove. All these wood pellets are for export. What they’re gonna do is fill up a bunch of rail cars and send them to Wilmington.”
Barbecue chicken was the food of choice for Tuesday’s festivities, and a four-man group of David King, Tommy Deese Sr., Steve Baggett and Robby Yates have been barbecuing for groups for 43 years, Howze said. CSX has “a special in” with them because Tommy Deese Jr. is an employee for the railroad company. All three shifts were able to be fed, totaling 132 customers and employees under tents outside the car shop.
“We actually brought them over here to say thank you for your business, for doing business with us,” said Smith, “and they actually turned it around and said, ‘Thank you for keeping our cars coming and safe and moving, and we appreciate everything you do.’”
“They told us that they wouldn’t be where they are without us, and we wouldn’t be where we are without them,” said Hodges. “It takes us working together.”
Smith said that in the beginning, Trinity had the capacity to hold eight rail cars. Now that has grown to 60 thanks to CSX’s mechanical department and the plant’s close proximity to the railroad. It’s this type of growth throughout the industrial park on N.C. 177 that is attributed to a close working relationship between the plants and the railroad.
It was also seen as a major incentive to companies such as Enviva, Trinity and others to move to Richmond County in the first place. Smith knows it’s special, as well as rare, for their customers to come seek them out.
“Customers come see transportation,” said Smith. “For them to come talk to us is unheard of. This is the first time this has happened at CSX. They don’t ever come see us, and we don’t ever see them. We just wanted to say thank you for their business.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674, listen to him at 12:10 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on WAYN 900 AM and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.