Washington State legislators, apple industry members and Port of Quincy Intermodal Terminal officials recently discussed apple shipments via the Cold Train Express Intermodal Service, a rail service provided by the port.

And while they had legislators’ attention, industry members asked for a hand in expanding the service.

At a special work session of the Washington State House Transportation Committee Jan. 15 in Olympia, Wash., committee members and industry and port officials highlighted the cost benefits and efficiencies of the Cold Train, which ships apples from Washington State on BNSF tracks to 20 states in the Midwest, to the East Coast and to one Canadian province.

Cole Jessup of Wenatchee, Wash.-based Columbia Marketing International was among the Washington apple shippers who testified before the committee.

Jessup said one of the industry’s goals of the session was to lobby legislators to expand the rail, warehousing and loading facilities at the Port of Quincy.

“We tried to emphasize to the committee the importance of the rail system,” Jessup said. “We know how tight trucks can be. Rail is a nice safety valve.”

In the winter, if Washington State mountain passes are closed, rail can sometimes be the only viable option for shippers, Jessup said. And when cherry season heats up in the summer, it can be hard to find trucks, he said.

For the past several years, CMI has shipped an estimated 20%-25% of its apples by rail, Jessup said.

“A couple of my larger accounts, about half ships by rail,” he said.

The Cold Train was launched in 2010 by Overland Park, Kan.-based Rail Logistics. Both fresh and frozen produce are shipped via a fleet of more than 400 refrigerated containers.

Apples are the biggest fresh commodity shipped on the Cold Train. Other fresh commodities shipped on the service include potatoes and onions.