Story, Photos by DAN SMITH
Roanoke Mayor David Bowers paused for emphasis, listened to the noisy yard at FrieghtCar America's East End Shops facility and said, "That clang is a good sound. It indicates a rebound in the economy in Roanoke."
In this case, it also means 200 more jobs, 1,500 more coal cars for Norfolk Southern Railway, and an indication that the giant railroad with a long Roanoke history believes the future is good. In fact, NS CEO Wick Moorman said as much: "It is with high confidence in the future of the coal market that we have chosen to continue our program to upgrade our coal fleet by ordering these new coal cars."
Bowers and Moorman shared the podium at a morning press conference today with FreightCar America President/CEO Ed Whalen and Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng. They said the things you'd expect at one of these back-slapping events, but it was Bowers who framed the reference strongly: this is about jobs, good jobs, stable jobs, jobs in private industry making things.
There will be 200 more jobs in this round of the order for what will finally be 3,000 cars. Cheng put the cost estimate for 1,500 cars at $100 million.
The cars are large capacity, lightweight (good for NS fuel consumption), strong and durable (good for NS long-term expenses).