PORTLAND, Maine — The Central Maine and Quebec Railway in 2016 posted positive net income for the first time since buying the former Maine Montreal and Atlantic Railway in a bankruptcy sale.
In its fourth quarter earnings report, the Hermon-based international railroad reported net income of $605,000, driven by a 20 percent increase in revenue, to $30.8 million. That’s up from about $25.6 million in revenue in 2015.
In 2016, the rail line shipped more carloads of building products, fuel and propane, chemicals and fertilizers, and paper and wood pulp. Among those product categories, paper and wood pulp carloads were the only to drop lower in the fourth quarter than one year ago.
The rise in total revenue follows about $23 million in capital investment the new owners put into the railroad after acquiring it for $15.7 million in a 2014 bankruptcy auction. A driverless derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, had pushed the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway into bankruptcy and focused international concern on rail safety guidelines in an effort to prevent similar crashes.
The company said that it expects traffic on the line to increase in 2017.
“In particular, we see potential upside from wood pellet production and distribution to Europe and new chemical moves across the system,” Joe Adams, CEO of Fortress’ transportation investment arm said.
The company also continues to push for infrastructure improvements in the region, supporting a recent Maine Department of Transportation application for $8.1 million in federal funds to improve and repair bridges on the Maine Northern Railway line, running from Madawaska to Millinocket.
DOT would add more than $5.6 million from bond funds and $2 million from the state-owned Maine Northern Railway to fund the bridge fixes.
Primary customers of the Maine Northern Railway line include forest product and agricultural businesses including Irving Woodlands, Twin Rivers Paper Co., Woodland Pulp, McCain Foods and potato growers, according to the Maine DOT.