Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad: Bringing the Region’s Manufacturing to the World

Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad: Bringing the Region’s Manufacturing to the World

The Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad (CSS) provides rail service through their connections to all major carriers, interchange switching, industrial switching, weighing, and has access to port and transloading facilities throughout Northwest Indiana and into Chicago. CSS takes great pride in consistently providing the very best in customer service and they provide dependable freight solutions for a wide variety of customers.

“We go from, basically, Chicago all the way over to South Bend and then we’ve got a line here at Michigan City that breaks off and goes down to Kingsbury, Indiana,” said Todd Bjornstad, President of Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad. “What’s great about our franchise is that by being able to get into Chicago, and some of our interchange points with the Class 1’s, we have the ability to move our customers traffic either into or out of their facilities to anywhere in the country, or basically the world.”

“When we get into Chicago, through our Class 1 connections with the bigger railroads, they are able to get our freight to all of the ports and different coasts, and then they can go anywhere. From there we’re able to put things on ships to go to Europe, for example. We have so many connections that allow us to move Northwest Indiana’s freight anywhere.”

That’s the beauty of Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad. Through their connectivity, they’re able to move and receive freight to and from around the world.

“We can handle anything but our main commodities that we handle are coal for the two NIPSCO power plants here in Michigan City and the Bailly Generating Station. We get coal for NIPSCO’s two different power plant locations and we get coal for the ArcelorMittal Steel Mill that they use in their production process.”

“After coal, we move a lot of steel for ArcelorMittal. Locally, we do boxcar business for GAF who makes shingles here in Michigan City just a stone's throw across our parking lot actually. They’re a big customer for us. We have several others but coal, steel, and GAF for shingles are our big hitters.”

The market is always changing and that’s something that Bjornstad and CSS has to stay on top of. Coal is down substantially, 30-35% across the U.S. but CSS is lucky to have part of the country’s steel industry still operating in Northwest Indiana.

“We’ve been fortunate with NIPSCO and ArcelorMittal here in the region who still need coal, that we’ve been able to keep moving. The industry is down and that’s one of the biggest changes.”

When Bjornstad recently came on board here in the Region, he met with Clarence Hulse from the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City and Bert Cook from the Greater La Porte Economic Development Corporation, and is excited about working to promote growth in Northwest Indiana.

“There’s a very good rapport between Clarence and Bert’s team,” Bjornstad said. “We have a very open relationship with them. We certainly want to help each other when opportunities come that we both can benefit from and that’s a really good relationship that will be ongoing.”

“Clarence works really hard and does a great job for economic development in Michigan City and Bert does a great job for La Porte. Those two together are a great team and they’re doing good things for this area. We’re excited to be business partners with them.”

Bjornstad’s family has a history in the railroad business as his father worked for BNSF in the Seattle, Washington area. When he got out of the Air Force, Bjornstad was looking for work and while initially looking to follow in his father’s footsteps at BNSF, he ultimately went to work with Union Pacific Railroad.

“I started on with Union Pacific and here I am, just a short 25 years,” Bjornstad joked. “Our move to Northwest Indiana was our 13th move in 26 years of marriage and this is our 12th state.”

Bjornstad spent 17 years with Union Pacific before moving over to Anacostia Rail Holdings, who is Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad’s parent company. Anacostia operates short line railroads in states across the country, from California and Minnesota to Indiana and New York.

“When I got the call that this was an opportunity I thought that the neat thing about this is that it’s in a beautiful area and it’s close to a great city in Chicago,” said Bjornstad. “It’s close to Lake Michigan where you can drive up the Lake and see beautiful towns. Valparaiso is a neat town with lots to do and we’re just really happy to be here.”