Montana Rail Link received a national award this week for safety performance.

The Missoula-based railroad, which operates nearly 956 miles of track between Huntley, just east of Billings, to Sandpoint, Idaho, along with several branch lines, earned a gold medal from the E.H. Harriman Memorial Awards Institute.

"It's all about our employees," said MRL spokeswoman Lynda Frost. "They have worked very hard at this."

Each year the institute presents awards for safety based on few personal injuries and an absence of accidents.

Besides the award, MRL received a Certificate for Commendation for two or more years of continuous improvements in its safety record.

"Wining this award speaks volumes about Montana Rail Link's commitment to safety and the quality and character of our people who have been dedicated to this accomplishment," MRL President Dan Watts said in a press release issued from Washington, D.C.

The Harriman Awards were established in 1913 by Mary Harriman in memory of her husband Edward Harriman, a railroad financier and administrator who reorganized and consolidated railroads in the United States. He was a president of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Frost said the award was the culmination of MRL's emphasis on safety.

The company has worked hard in recent years on safety, hoping to reassure people it is safely run after serious accidents such as the derailment and chlorine spill near Alberton in 1996.

The railroad is a privately held company and is part of the Washington Companies, a group of businesses in which Montana businessman Dennis Washington owns a significant interest.

The railroad has 113 locomotives and 2,159 freight cars that haul lumber and wood products, farm goods, fuel, mineral concentrates, and coal.

MRL has 1,100 workers and ran 214,871 loaded rail cars in 1998. It is the east-west railroad across southern Montana.

Friday - 5/21/99

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