When the CSX freight train rides through Matthews Center, people often stop and stare in wonderment and joy. This is a slice of Americana – a harkening back to a time when freight was or could only be delivered by this method. Children often wave to the conductor; many people count train cars (often nearing 100). Automobiles are forced to stop and wait for the gate to lift and the flashing lights/signal to stop. In this way, a simple occurrence becomes an occasion, every day all across the country.
As the train exits town moving toward Charlotte, passersby may not realize that one or two train cars or flatbeds have been diverted to a short rail owned and operated by the Matthews Building Supply – the last train stop in town and one that’s been in existence for nearly 50 years.
According to George McMillen, buyer for the company, the train delivers more than one dozen drops/year. “In our industry, it’s very helpful; you can (also) get better pricing this way,” he said referencing that using trucks or automobiles to transport and delivery is less cost-effective and often less consistent. He orders approximately two weeks in advance of need and waits 2-4 weeks for it to be delivered.
On this day, McMillen is overseeing a flatbed full of (100,000 board feet of) lumber from the Teal Jones Company located in the Northwest. He said the company works hard to immediately unload the freight, to not incur any penalties/charges. MBS owns and is responsible for maintaining the track (and mowing the grass around it) from nearby North Ames to the portion which ends on their land.
“This is an integral part of our business and another device for getting (materials) here,” he said.