Railroad Specialties Inc.
- Written by: Kelly Matlock
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Railroad Specialties Inc. (RSI) was established in December 2000 to cover the railroad track needs of the Rocky Mountain region, which was well underway shortly thereafter by January 2001. RSI’s growth has been unfurling, like newly laid tracks, since.
Impressively, Dennis Olin, president and co-founder of RSI, has been in the industry for 51 years. Dennis knows what he’s doing, and doesn’t tire of it. “I’ve been in this business since 1962, and it’s never boring,” he says.
Dennis goes on to note that 30 of those years have been spent working with his son, Bob, vice president and co-founder of RSI. The two previously worked with several Denver area contractors and were more than qualified to get RSI off the ground when the time was right.
From its location in Littleton, Colo., RSI has been rapidly branching out across the nation. As need has grown beyond the Rocky Mountain region, RSI has been there. Now, the company’s reach expands clear up to Wisconsin, the Dakotas and down to Louisiana. “Over the last 12 years we’ve had a tremendous amount of repeat business,” explains Dennis. “As the companies we work for grow, we continue to grow.”
RSI provides full-coverage specialty services and solutions to the rail-shipping industry, including consulting, design, infrastructure inspection, track construction, sub-grade prep, concrete work, maintenance, repair work, derailment and emergency services, as well as demolition. There’s not much RSI doesn’t do; the company only subcontracts out asphalt and electrical work.
“We have the capability to do track design and layout of facilities in-house,” Dennis continues. “This is something many railroad construction companies now outsource.” By working with the design concepts in-house, RSI speeds along approvals and ensures maximum system efficiency.
Assembling the Right Team for the Big Stuff
Many industries benefit from RSI’s full-service turnkey offerings and customers are often found in mines, power plants, manufacturing plants, shipping and receiving facilities, as well as the transportation of fuels. “Anyone who needs a track system calls on RSI,” Dennis says proudly.
In order to stay at a high level of quality, RSI scours the area for worthy people in order to maintain a solid, dependable workforce; however, Dennis admits that the search is one of his biggest challenges. “It’s hard to find good quality people with railroad experience,” he details.
Nonetheless, RSI offers its dedicated, hardworking employees a 401(k), paid-time off and health insurance. “When we find them we’re able to keep them,” Dennis continues.
The company’s office personnel consists of professionals well-versed in engineering, drafting, estimating, purchasing and accounting, which are complemented by superintendents, foremen, operators and laborers in the field. When building its team, RSI management – with over 100 years of combined industry experience – was as careful as it is on every project.
With a solid infrastructure, RSI is capable of bonding projects up to $100 million nationwide. While the company’s projects vary in detail, much of its work has been found in fuel transportation, including the construction of multi-mile unit train load-out and receiving loops for frac sand, which is pumped into oil wells to fracture the rock and allow oil and natural gas to seep up through drilling tubes, and crude oil. As the fuel business booms, it’s been RSI’s largest source of work in the last couple of years.
Currently, RSI is both north and south of Colorado constructing a multi-mile unit train load-out loop for crude oil in Wyoming, as well as the receiving loop in Louisiana. “It goes right from the source to the oil refineries,” says Dennis. “As direct as it gets.”
Another customer, Hi-Crush Proppants, had RSI install 22,000 feet of track for its frac sand loading facility. The $4.6 million project was delivered in July 2012 and included eight turnouts, two mainline operated turnouts, as well as double switch point derails installed by Union Pacific. The year prior, Xcel Energy hired RSI to complete work closer to home in Hayden, Colo. The $6.6 million project included 19,700 feet of track with a main spur and loop track along with two siding tracks.
Piecing it all Together
In addition to large contracts with behemoth companies, RSI completes an array of smaller, unique projects. The team has tackled repair and maintenance of steam-operated narrow gauge excursion/tourist-type tracks.
Another source of business comes in the form of emergency services: an on-call RSI relief crew is at the ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to come to the rescue of tracks that require snow removal or are rocked by natural disaster or derailment. RSI rushed in to complete major repairs to tracks destroyed by the unprecedented flash flood in the Front Range of Colorado that caused damage across nearly 2,000 square miles in July 2013.
To facilitate its work, RSI has a fleet of support vehicles, trucks, trailers, tampers, regulators and other track equipment along with backhoes, graders, bulldozers and other heavy civil work equipment. RSI’s concrete work capabilities allow it to build bridges, drainage structures, mainline sidings, unloading pits, scales, as well as transload facilities. This expertise and equipment led to RSI acting as the general contractor on a 16,000-square-foot building at the end of a track for loading gold concentrate.
Dennis is pleased with how far the company has come; a long way from his first job in the track construction and maintenance department of The Denver Rio Grand Western Railroad in 1962. With over half a century in the industry, Dennis is deserving of experiencing the kind of success he is today.
As for what will come down the line, Dennis says he trusts that RSI can find a solution to any challenge while still having fun. The team will also continue to be a part of a company that does it all; from design to seeing that well-loaded trains keep rolling over the horizon, as Railroad Specialties Inc. has it covered.
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