White City railway has new boss

A 30-year-old train engineer from Wisconsin buys the White City Terminal Union Railway from Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
The view from a 1952 SW1200 locomotive window shows a portion of the White City Terminal Union Railway, which was purchased this week by a Wisconsin railroad engineer. Mail Tribune / Bob PennellBob Pennell

WHITE CITY — A short line — living up to its designation with about 14 miles of track connecting this unincorporated part of Jackson County and the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad north of Central Point — has a new owner.

Until this week, White City Terminal Union Railway was an unknown speck on Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway balance sheet. Now it is the prize possession of Scott B. DeVries of Superior, Wis., an engineer for the Canadian National Railway.

"He's always been interested in trains," Scott's wife Laura DeVries said this morning. "He's wanted to own a railroad and this was his dream."

She said her husband was unavailable, because he was on the job, which frequently takes him on runs in southern Wisconsin and up to International Falls, Minn.

"He saw how much potential it had and its growth potential," Laura DeVries said.

She said her 30-year-old husband had been working with a railroad consultant in his search, but hadn't put together a deal until the White City opportunity "with a motivated seller" came along.

The sale was spurred by a Surface Transportation Board decree requiring Marmon Transportation Services, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway, to divest itself of two shortlines by Dec. 31.

Berkshire sold its 9.6 million shares of Union Pacific Corp. and 1.9 million shares of Norfolk Southern Corp. to avoid problems with regulators when it acquired BNSF Railway in February 2010.

However, it overlooked the White City operation and one other smaller line and informed the regulatory board of the oversight in September. WCTU was owned by Railserve Inc., part of the industrial conglomerate Marmon Holdings Inc., controlled by Berkshire since 2008.

Scott DeVries flew to Oregon in November to check out WCTU Railway. In addition to the 14 miles of track, it includes two locomotives and has two engineers on staff. It has generated about $250,000 in revenues annually.

"He went out with low expectations," Laura DeVries said. "He looked at the financial statements and wasn't thrilled. He thought it was a line that wouldn't benefit him. But when he got out there, he saw the potential."

He formed RVTR Rail Holdings in anticipation of the purchase.

Unlike the past, ownership will be hands on. The DeVries plan to move to the Rogue Valley in the spring and have indicated that engineers Charles Thompson and Nikki Cosgrove will continue with the company.

Laura DeVries said her husband would like to put in heavier rails to provide service for customers such as Boise Cascade.

"He saw spurs going into other business properties that aren't customers," she said. "We want them to be our customers."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.


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