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Reading & Northern Railroad last week announced a "significant program" of capital expenditures and hiring to accommodate an increase in freight-rail and passenger excursion traffic.Despite a soft market for anthracite coal, the Pennsylvania railroad reported that its freight traffic has exceed its record-setting 2015 base, according to a company press release.Merchandise traffic rose nearly 15 percent, while passenger excursion business is running 15 percent ahead of last year's pace, Reading and Northern officials said.To accommodate the growth, the railroad has hired more than 20 full-time freight railroad employees. Also, over the past 60 days the railroad added six locomotives to its fleet, bringing the total number of active locomotives to 36. The railroad acquired four EMD MP15 locomotives at a Norfolk Southern Railway auction.In addition, the railroad acquired two additional EMD GP39RNs, which will be used primarily in passenger excursion service.In preparation for future growth in the anthracite business, Reading & Northern recently closed on the acquisition of 156 used steel open-top hopper cars, bringing its total fleet to 1179 cars.Moreover, the railroad's maintenance of way forces recently completed major track projects at two new freight customers, as well as a track project completed for a third customer earlier in 2016.The railroad's MOW team also installed 15,000 ties, 10,000 feet of new rail, and constructed 10,000 feet of new sidings and surfaced 89 miles of track.Crews installed 15 miles of signal system on previously unsignaled territory.
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