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Close-Up: How Rail Keeps Jobs in Oregon's Timber Industry

Oregon's sawmills have learned a certain resourcefulness over the last 20 years as the wood supply from local forests has declined. Short line railroads have helped the industry adapt, giving it newer, lower-cost shipping options and access to a steady wood supply and far-off markets. Nearly half the output from Oregon's forest product mills are shipped to market by rail. 

When shipped by rail, transportation accounts for about 15 percent of the total cost of wood products. When shipped by truck over a comparable distance, freight costs jump to 25 percent. Short lines have helped forest products companies keep costs down.

In late 1995, Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad (CORP) in Roseburg proposed to Roseburg Forest Products (RFP) to haul RFP's logs the 214 miles from Weed, Calif. to its sawmill in Dillard, Ore. CORP's charges were far lower than Southern Pacific for the same move. The two companies worked together to make the plan happen, moving over 2,100 carloads in the first year alone. Now, CORP moves logs by rail for four other customers as well.

"Our customers now pay less to receive logs by rail. This means their costs are lower, enabling them to purchase logs from greater distances. Half the logs we transport now come from Washington, British Columbia and Alaska." 

Walt Brickwedel -- CORP

  • Logs are processed into lumber, particleboard, medium-density fiberboard and veneer and then sent by rail to other plants for further processing.
  • Wood chips produced at one mill are shipped by short line to other plants to make particleboard or paper.
  • Particleboard is railed to manufacturers who add the finishing touches to create cabinets and countertops.
  • Paper is shipped to other processors where it is made into boxes and other paper products.

 Keeping Jobs in Oregon

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Keeping Timber Jobs

Easing the Burden on Oregon's Roads

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