In the face of growing demand and soaring diesel prices, Schenectady, N.Y.-based Railex LLC is adding a third weekly East Coast bound refrigerated train from its Delano, Calif., facility.

“We started hearing last fall that (trucking) equipment and containers were becoming hard to find,” said Steve Poindexter, director of business trade development and national accounts.

The start of the three trains a week schedule from Delano will begin June 15, he said, and comes just three years after Railex launched the California to New York route. In addition to guaranteed delivery in five days, Railex offers warehouse and consolidation/cross-docking services at its New York hub, Poindexter said.

“We’ve had huge increases in every commodity, and we’ve actually been able to put more commodities on board than we had originally thought we could,” he said.

The success of shipping cherries has been one of the pleasant surprises, Poindexter said. The Delano facility also is serving grower-shippers of table grapes, stone fruit, citrus and several vegetables, including celery, broccoli and leafy greens, from the Salinas Valley and as far away as Arizona.

“We’re getting shipments from as far east as Nogales,” Poindexter said.

Fresh produce is not the only food category taking advantage of the Railex service. The customer base is expanding among cheese, wine and candy makers and even ingredient processors, Poindexter said.

“When we hear from makers of fast moving consumer goods that it doesn’t look as if they’re going to get all of their products covered, you know something is happening out there,” he said.

A factor in the growing demand for dedicated rail service is the food industry’s push for environmentally friendly programs.

“Many of our customers have asked us to be part of their sustainability programs, and we’ve complied by giving them monthly reports based on true measurements in efforts to help them in becoming carbon neutral,” said Pat Bruno, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

According to Railex records, the rail service from the Delano facility and a similar operation out of southwest Washington has — when compared to using truck-trailer rigs — reduced fossil fuel use by more than 32 million gallons and lowered carbon dioxide emissions by 640,000 metric tons in the past four years.

The company’s positive impact on the environment could increase in coming years. The goal of the Delano facility is five trains to New York weekly, and the company is scheduled to add yet another train from California to the Southeast in first quarter, 2012, Poindexter said.