THE first train service at the Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal at Dooen has marked a new era for Wimmera transport.
Terminal operator Wimmera Container Line unloaded and reloaded the first train at the site yesterday, which will provide a central location for grain handling and export processes and will improve access to grain ports.
The capacity of the freight hub will be close to double that of the Horsham terminal.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan last month officially opened the $17.5-million project, the biggest project ever undertaken by Horsham Rural City Council.
Wimmera Container Line management, staff and customers were on hand to witness the first train move into the terminal.
Company owner and managing director Rodney Clarke established the container logistics freight company with his wife Jenny in 1994.
The company moved 170 containers in its first year and now moves about 13,500 containers a year with five train services a week.
Mr Clarke anticipates that by the end of this year and over the next season, Wimmera Container Line will run up to nine services a week and move in excess of 20,000 containers.
He said it was an historic day for the region and the company.
"It is great to experience this with some of our best friends and loyal customers," he said. "We have come such a long way. To think that we moved 170 containers in our first year, and now we would nearly do that in a day sometimes.
"You can only achieve something like this with a good customer base and good staff they are the basic ingredients for a good business.
"I commend all the management and staff for co-ordinating the move and getting everything out here it went off without a hitch.
"Every member of our staff has strong ties and involvement with the company and are integral to Wimmera Container Line moving forward."
The company also announced yesterday it had signed a new two-year agreement with one of its long-time supporters Johnson Asahi.
The move will see Wimmera Container Line move in excess of 3000 containers a year for the group.
"There has been pressure for them to change to another rail provider but they have stayed with us and we appreciate their loyalty," Mr Clarke said.
Wimmera Container Line general manager Doug Golden said the partnership was a fantastic opportunity.
"Johnson Asahi is a family company and Wimmera Container Line is the same," he said.
Mr Golden said seeing the terminal come to life after a decade of planning and development was simply overwhelming.
"It is a testament to all the staff who have worked so hard, from the legal negotiations with council to physically moving everything out here at the weekend," he said.
"We started moving on Friday and went until 2am the next morning, then all day Saturday and finished at midnight on Sunday.
"It represents a lot of dedication by a lot of people.
"I think it is great that people can now see the facility.
"It has been a dream until you physically see the containers and the reach stackers here.
"This day is about the people who operate and will be part of this site for the next 10 to 15 years."