WATCO is Part of Junction City’s Transportation Hub
Thursday, January 14, 2021
WATCO is a Kansas-based single-source transportation and supply chain services company with locations throughout North America and Australia. Founded in 1983, they grew from one locomotive into what they are today: a leading company that offers its customers water, rail, road and air transportation, material handling and storage, repair and maintenance, logistics, and design and development. They own and operate a diverse and unmatched network of short line railroads, terminals, ports, and mechanical shops. Junction City, Kansas is home to one of their railcar repair shops.
“Customers send us their railcars so we can fix them up to ‘track ready’ according to Federal Railroad Administration/Association of American Railroads standards,” said Eric Franco-Velez, Junction City WATCO plant manager.
Franco-Velez went on to explain the Junction City shop’s role in WATCO operations. “WATCO as a whole is a one-stop shop for all transportation needs. WATCO operates many different facilities that can offer transportation/ logistics support to our many different customers. The mechanical shops help keep our customers’ railcars track ready for the movement of many different commodities. Our ports and terminals store many of these commodities on site where they can load the railcars. Once loaded, our railroads pick up those railcars and transport them across the country to wherever their final destination may be to our customers’ customers.”
“Whatever our customer may need, we at WATCO should be able to provide a service for them,” said Franco-Velez.
Franco-Velez went on to describe the typical service process in the Junction City shop. When railcars first come in for repair, they are evaluated in the inspection department to estimate work needed. Once repair work is approved, the railcar goes to the wash rack where the cleaning team disassembles the car to completely powerwash the interior and exterior. The railcar then moves to their mechanical shop where heavy repairs such as steel work, coupler connections, and brake work are performed according to FRA/AAR standards. If requested, they paint and re-apply the car decals. Then a team of mechanics will reassemble the car and send it to the quality assurance department for final inspection and approval.
While the WATCO services in Junction City are confined to repairs, Franco-Velez sees potential to even further improve Junction City’s function as a transportation hub. “The area surrounding our shop is where it gets interesting. There are a few hundred acres of city-owned property that has the potential to be utilized as an epicenter for transporting goods. Junction City is the heart of the country. We’re right off of a class 1 railroad and right off of a main east-west highway with easy access to other highways. With WATCO being a transportation/ logistics company in general, we have the ability here in JC to provide services as a repair shop, transload terminal, and switching operations, all while our supply chain helps navigate the logistical aspects of transporting goods across the country . . . once again becoming a one-stop shop.”
Franco-Velez moved from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Junction City in 2015 for his job with WATCO. He said the two places are like “night and day.”
“What I like most about it, is it’s a quiet small town,” said Franco-Velez, “It’s way different from what I was used to, but still close enough to Kansas City, Omaha, and not too far of a drive to Denver, which gives me plenty of travel options.”
Franco-Velez thinks one of the most important things to know about his company is “how many different ways WATCO can help our customers.”
“We offer so many different solutions for transportation and logistical challenges a customer may have — all in one place,” said Franco-Velez. “Even though we, in Junction City, are a repair shop, we have access to just about any solution our customer may need at the tip of our fingers, which I don’t believe too many companies can say. Also, the good thing is, we’re always looking to hire the right person at WATCO.”
“Discover the Difference” at WATCO today, either working with them or for them.
Visit the Junction City-Geary County Economic Development Commission to learn how they can help your business succeed.