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Blue Ridge Paper Overview

Blue Ridge Paper

By Clinton Smoke

During our recent conference, we visited Blue Ridge Paper. Blue Ridge Paper is one of America's largest producers of gable-top juice and milk cartons in addition to a variety of papers for other uses. The North Carolina manufacturer operates a pulp and paper mill, a plastic-coating extrusion facility, and four packaging plants employing more than 2000 workers. From its corporate headquarters and original manufacturing base in the Canton, North Carolina, Blue Ridge Paper makes a wide range of paper, board, and packaging products. Its paper products include envelope, covering kraft, forms, offset, and specialty papers. The company's paperboard includes polycoated and uncoated versions used primarily for food service packaging applications. Its DairyPak unit makes gable top cartons for liquid and dry goods. Sales exceeded $500 million in 2007.

Canton is located on the Murphy Branch of the old Southern Railway. At one time, Blue Ridge Paper, formerly known as Champion Paper, was one of the Southernís largest customers. They are still a significant railroad customer, now of Norfolk Southern. Consider the following statistics: Outbound, approximately 100 box cars of product per month. Much of their product is shipped by truck and that may change as fuel prices rise. Inbound shipments include approximately 1100 wood-chip cars, 350 coal cars, 60 chemical tank cars, and 35 resin cars a month. Two trains from Asheville serve Canton daily where up to 250 cars can be stored. The paper mill has two diesel switchers, one out of service and one rail RailKing switcher. During our visit, I saw several NS locomotives switching inside the facility.

Blue Ridge Paper rotary dumper

Though idle during our visit, Blue Ridge Paper unloads 35 to 40 wood chip cars a day with this rotary dumper.

Blue Ridge Paper Wood Chip dumper Rail King switcher
Ridge uses nearly 6000 tons of chips a day, 40 percent of which is transported by truck. In addition to the diesel switchers mentioned in the text, Blue Ridge uses this Rail King switcher.
Photo credits: Bottom three photographs on this page provided courtesy of Beth Bartlett.