Fallen Flags -  The defunct railroads of North America

​A fallen flag is a North American railroader and railfan term for a railroad company that is no longer in business due to bankruptcy or merger.

The U.S. railroad industry has been consolidating since the 1940s, and almost every year, the list of operating roads shrinks. Most railroad companies that once existed have either closed, been assimilated by a larger company, or participated in a "merger of equals" in which neither company's name survived unaltered (an example of the latter being the Burlington Northern / Santa Fe merger, which produced the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, now known as the BNSF Railway). Before World War II, there were over 140 Class I railroads operating in the U.S. (at the time a railroad was given Class I status if it earned at least $1 million in revenue annually).

As an indication of the level of consolidation that has taken place, only four Class I railroads (then, railroads with over a million dollars in income per year) from before the Great Depression still exist under their original names, these being the:

Union Pacific Railroad
Kansas City Southern Railway
Canadian National Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway

However, as railroads merge or buy each other, duplicate and less profitable rights of way often are sold to new short line railroad companies. Yet, even these short lines themselves merge and buy each other, creating even more fallen flags. For example, many of the former Milwaukee Road branch lines in southern Wisconsin were sold to a railroad called the Wisconsin and Calumet Railroad (WICT). The WICT is now itself a fallen flag, its rights of way now operated by the Wisconsin and Southern.

Historic trademarks
In the case of a merged or purchased railway, the new owner sometimes tries to enforce the trademarks of the old name to collect royalties from model railroad manufacturers. However, this violates trademark law, which requires that owners actively use marks for them to remain protected and not fall into the public domain.

To prove that historic trademarks are still enforceable, some railroads have begun painting pieces of rolling stock in the liveries of their constituent railroads. No court case has decided whether this is sufficient to prove that a mark is not abandoned.

Two railroads, specifically Union Pacific and CSX Transportation, have filed suits in U.S. court to prevent the use of their trademarks or their historic trademarks by model manufacturers without first obtaining a license to reproduce the marks. The licensing agreements that the railroads offer include conditions that many model manufacturers feel are excessive in scope or monetary value. Some model manufacturers have signed licensing agreements while others have refused on principle or simply closed their business. Model manufacturers argue that the historic trademarks have been out of use so long that they are abandoned and therefore available to use freely. Courts have yet to decide on these issues.

The defunct railroads (commonly known as "fallen flags") of North America regrouped several railroads in Canada and the United States. Here is a partial list of past railroad companies. (More links coming soon)

Defunct Railroad Companies (Fallen Flags)
Algoma Central Railway (AC)
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF)
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL)
Auto-Train Corporation (AUT)
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O)
Bangor and Aroostook Railroad (BAR)
Beaumont, Sour Lake & Western Railroad
Boston and Albany Railroad (B&A)
Boston and Maine Corporation (BM)
Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado
Burlington Northern Railroad (BN)
Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR)
Central of Georgia Railway
Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR)
Central Railroad of New Jersey (Jersey Central) (CNJ)
Central Vermont (CV)
Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (CO)
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CBQ)
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (MILW)
Chicago Great Western Railway (CGW)
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (RI)
Chicago and North Western Transportation Company (CNW)
Colorado and Southern Railway (C&S)
Columbia Tap Railway
Conrail (CR)
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW)
Detroit Toledo & Ironton (DT&I)
Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee Railway (DGH&M)
Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad
Grand Trunk (GT)
Great Northern Railway (GN)
Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway
Fernley and Lassen Railway
Fredericksburg and Northern Railway
Hudson Bay Railway (HBR)
Houston Belt & Terminal Railroad
Houston, East & West Texas Railroad
Houston & Texas Central Railroad
Illinois Central Railroad (IC)
Intercolonial Railway of Canada (IRC)
International–Great Northern Railroad
LaPorte Houston Northern Railway
Louisville and Nashville Railroad (LN)
Maine Central (MCR)
Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway (MSTL)
Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad (MKT) (also known as the "KATY")
Missouri Pacific Railroad (MP)
National Transcontinental Railway (NTR)
New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad
New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad
New Orleans & Nashville Railroad – see Uptown New Orleans.
New York Central (NYC)
New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (NH)
New York, Ontario and Western Railroad (OW)
New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (NKP)
Norfolk and Western Railway (NW)
Northern Pacific Railway (NP)
Northern Railway of Canada (NRC)
Pontchartrain Railroad
Penn Central (PC)
Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR)
Prince Edward Island Railway (PEIR)
Raleigh and Gaston Railroad
Reading Railroad (RDG)
St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railroad (SLBM) 
San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad (SAAP)
Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL)
Southern Pacific Transportation Company (SP)
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway (SPSR)
Texas and New Orleans Railroad (TNO)
Trinity & Brazos Valley Railroad
Tuskegee Railroad
Western Maryland Railway (WM)
Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad
Wisconsin Central Ltd. (WC)

See also:

Defunct Railroads of the United States Listed by State

Railroads of the U.S.A.

Common Carrier Freight Railroads

Railroad Classes

Class I

Class II

Regional Railroads


Association of American Railroads

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A Texas and New Orleans RR caboose on eastbound local  No. 86 near LaCoste, TX in 1960. Photo by Roger Puta.

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