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Short Line Railroads
A short line railroad is a small or mid-sized railroad company that operates over a relatively short distance relative to larger, national railroad networks. The term is used primarily in the United States and Canada. In the U.S., railroads are categorized by operating revenue, and most short line railroads fall into the Class III or Class II categorization defined by the Surface Transportation Board.

Short lines generally exist for one of three reasons: to link two industries requiring rail freight together (for example, a gypsum mine and a wall board factory, or a coal mine and a power plant); to interchange revenue traffic with other, usually larger, railroads; or to operate a tourist passenger train service. Often, short lines exist for all three of these reasons.

Short Line is also one of the four railroads in the popular board game Monopoly, named after the Shore Fast Line, an interurban streetcar line.

In the beginning of the railroad age, nearly all railway lines were short lines, locally chartered, financed and operated; as the railroad industry matured, local lines were merged or acquired to create longer mainline railroads.

Especially since 1980 in the U.S. and 1990 in Canada, many short lines have been established when larger railroad companies sold off or abandoned low-profit portions of their trackage. Short line operators typically have lower labor, overhead and regulatory costs than Class I railroads and therefore are often able to operate profitable lines that lost money for their original owners.

Because of their small size and generally low revenues, the great majority of short line railroads in the U.S. are classified by the Association of American Railroads as Class III. As defined by the Surface Transportation Board, a Class III is a railroad with an annual operating revenue of less than $28 million. In Canada, Transport Canada classifies short line railroads as Class II.

There are three kinds of short lines in the U.S.: handling, switch, and ISS (Interline Settlement System).

Handling short lines exist only to move cars along their tracks for larger railroads. They are not listed in the route on a railcar's waybill. Handling short lines may have compensation agreements with the larger railroads they serve that do not depend on per car rates.

Switch short lines are similar to handling short lines except that they are listed on a railcar's route, and they collect a fee for each car they move on their tracks.

ISS short lines operate the same as Class I and II railroads. They are included in the routes of railcars. Also, they serve as the billing railroads for loads that originate on their lines. For loads not originating on their lines, ISS short lines still collect a portion of the freight rate.

List of short lines by State  (Please note this list is incomplete - more coming soon)
Current short line railroads in operation in the U.S.:

Alabama and Tennessee River Railway ATN
Alabama Southern Railroad ABS
Alabama Warrior Railway ABWR
Birmingham Southern Railroad BS
CG Railway CGR
Chattahoochee and Gulf Railroad CHAT
Conecuh Valley Railroad COEH
Autauga Northern Railroad AUT
Wiregrass Central Railroad WGCR

Apache Railway APA
Arizona and California Railroad ARZC
Arizona Central Railroad AZCR
Arizona Eastern Railway AZER
Copper Basin Railway CBRY
San Pedro and Southwestern Railroad SPSR

Arkansas and Missouri Railroad AM
Arkansas Southern Railroad ARS
Fort Smith Railroad FSR

California Northern Railroad CFNR
Carrizo Gorge Railway CZRY
Central California Traction CCT
McCloud Railway CZRY
Pacific Harbor Line PHL
Pacific Sun Railroad PSRR
Richmond Pacific Railroad RPRC
San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad SDIY
San Francisco Bay Railroad SFBR
Santa Maria Valley Railroad SMV
Sierra Northern Railway SERA
Trona Railway TRC

Denver Rock Island Railroad DRIR
San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad SLRG

Branford Steam Railroad BRFD
Central New England Railroad CNZR
Connecticut Southern Railroad CSOR

Delaware Coast Line Railroad DLCR
Delmarva Central Railroad DCR
East Penn Railroad ESPN
Maryland and Delaware Railroad MDDE
Wilmington and Western Railroad WWRC

Apalachicola Northern Railroad AN
Bay Line Railroad BAYL
Seminole Gulf Railway SGLR
South Central Florida Express SCFE

Chattahoochee Industrial
Georgia Central Railway GC
Georgia Northeastern Railway
Georgia Southwestern Railway
Sandersville Railroad SAN
St. Mary's Railroad SM
Valdosta Railway VR

Bloomer Line BLOL
Central Illinois Railroad CIRY
Crab Orchard and Egyptian Railroad COER
Decatur Junction Railway DT
Eastern Illinois Railroad EIRC
Foster Townsend Rail Logistics FTRL
Illinois Railway IR
Keokuk Junction Railway KJRY
Peoria and Western Railway PWRY
Tazewell and Peoria Railroad TZPR
Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad TPW

Bee Line Railroad BLEX
Central Indiana and Western Railroad CEIW
Central Railroad Company of Indiana CIND
Central Railroad Company of Indianapolis CERA
Chesapeake and Indiana Railroad CKIN
Chicago Fort Wayne and Eastern Railroad CFE
Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad CSS
Dubois County Railroad DCRR
Elkhart and Western Railroad EWR
Evansville Western Railway EVWR
Fulton County Railroad FC
Grand Elk Railroad GDLK
Honey Creek Railroad HCRR
Hoosier Southern Railroad HOS
Indian Creek Railroad ICRK
Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad IHB
Indiana Northeastern Railroad IN
Indiana Southern Railroad ISRR
Indiana Southwestern Railway ISW
Kankakee, Beaverville and Southern Railroad KBSR
Louisville and Indiana Railroad LIRC
Lucas Oil Rail Line LORL
Madison Railroad CMPA
Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway TPW
Vermilion Valley Railroad VVRR

Appanoose County Community Railroad APNC
Burlington Junction Railway BJRY
Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway CIC
Iowa Northern Railway IANR

Kaw River Railroad KAW
Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad KO
Kansas City Terminal Railway KCT
South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad SKOL

Baton Rouge Southern Railroad BRS
Louisiana Southern Railroad LAS
New Orleans & Gulf Coast NOGC

Eastern Maine Railway (1995) EMRY
Maine Eastern Railroad MERR
Maine Northern Railway MNRY
St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad SLR

Bay Coast Railroad BCR
Delmarva Central Railroad DCR
Maryland and Delaware Railroad MDDE
Maryland Midland Railway MMID

Grafton and Upton Railroad GU
Massachusetts Central Railroad MCER

Adrian and Blissfield Railroad ADBF
Charlotte Southern Railroad CHS
Detroit Connecting Railroad DCON
Escanaba and Lake Superior Railroad ELS
Grand Elk Railroad GDLK
Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad LSI
Lapeer Industrial Railroad LIRR
Tecumseh Branch Connecting Railroad TCBY

Progressive Rail, Inc. PGR


Columbia Terminal Railway COLT
Kansas City Terminal Railway KCT
Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis TRRA

Meridian Southern Railway MDS
Mississippi Southern Railroad MSR
Mississippi Delta Railroad MDR
Mississippian Railway Cooperative MSRW
Vicksburg Southern Railroad VSOR

Brandon Corporation BRAN
Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad FEVR
Kyle Railroad KYLE
Nebkota Railway NRI
Nebraska Central NCRC
Nebraska Northeastern Railway NENE
Nebraska Northwestern Railroad NNW
Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado RailNet NKC
Omaha, Lincoln and Beatrice Railway OLB
Sidney and Lowe Railroad SLGG

New Jersey
Belvidere and Delaware River Railway BDRV
Morristown & Erie Railway ME
New York and Greenwood Lake Railway (1996) NYGL
SMS Rail Lines SLRS
Southern Railroad of New Jersey SRNJ
Winchester and Western Railroad WW

New Mexico
Arizona Eastern Railway AZER
Santa Fe Southern Railway SFS
Southwestern Railroad SW
Texas-New Mexico Railroad TNMR

New York
Bath and Hammondsport Railroad BH
Batten Kill Railroad BKRR
Depew, Lancaster and Western Railroad DLWR
Falls Road Railroad FRR
Finger Lakes Railway FGLK
Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad LAL
Ontario Central Railroad ONCT
Ontario Midland Railroad OMID
Buffalo Southern Railroad BSRR
Arcade and Attica Railroad ARA
New York and Atlantic Railway NYA
Rochester and Southern Railroad RSR
Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad WNYP

North Carolina
Aberdeen, Carolina and Western Railway ACWR
Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad AR
Alexander Railroad ARC
Atlantic and Western Railway ATW
Carolina Central Railway
Caldwell County Railroad CWCY
Great Smoky Mountains Railroad GSMR
Winston-Salem Southbound Railway WSS
Yadkin Valley Railroad YVRR

North Dakota
Red River Valley and Western Railroad RRVW

Arkansas Southern Railroad ARS
Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad BNG
Farmrail FMRC
Hollis and Eastern Railroad HE
Kiamichi Railroad KRR
Northwestern Oklahoma Railroad NOKR
Sand Springs Railway SS
Stillwater Central Railroad SLWC
Texas, Oklahoma and Eastern Railroad TOE
Wichita Tillman and Jackson WTJR

Ashland Railway ASRY
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad CVSR
Ohio Central Railroad OHCR
Ohio Terminal Railway OHIO
Ohio Valley Railroad OVR, OVRX
Toledo Lake Erie & Western TLEW

Albany & Eastern Railroad AERC
City of Prineville Railway COPR
Coos Bay Rail Link CBR
Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad INPR
Klamath Northern Railway KNOR
Modoc Northern Railroad MHRR
Mount Hood Railroad MH
Oregon Pacific Railroad OPR
Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad PCC
Peninsula Terminal Railroad PT
Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad POTB
Portland Terminal Railroad PTO
Wallowa Union Railroad Authority WURR
Willamette Valley Railway WVR
Wyoming & Colorado Railway WYCO

Allegheny Valley Railroad AVR
Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad DL
East Penn Railroad ESPN
Pennsylvania Northeastern Railroad PN
Pittsburgh and Ohio Central Railroad POHC
Middletown and Hummelstown Railroad MIDH
New Hope and Ivyland Railroad NHRR
Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad RBMN
Shamokin Valley Railroad SVRR

South Carolina
Carolina Southern Railroad CALA
Greenville and Western Railway GRLW
Hampton and Branchville Railroad HB
Lancaster and Chester Railroad LC
Pee Dee River Railway PDRR
Pickens Railway PICK
South Carolina Central Railroad SCRF

South Dakota
Dakota Southern Railway DSRC
Ellis and Eastern EE

East Tennessee Railway ETRY
Nashville and Eastern Railroad NERR

Alamo Gulf Coast Railroad AGCR
Alliance Terminal Railroad ATR
Angelina and Neches River Railroad ANR
Austin Western Railroad AWRR
Blacklands Railroad BLR

Corpus Christi Terminal Railroad CCPN
Dallas, Garland and Northeastern Railroad DGNO
Fort Worth and Western Railroad FWWR
Galveston Railroad GVSR
Georgetown Railroad GRR
Gulf, Colorado and San Saba Railroad GCSR
Moscow, Camden and San Augustine Railroad MCSA
Pecos Valley Southern Railway PVS
Point Comfort and Northern Railway PCN
Sabine River and Northern Railroad SRN
Texas and Northern Railway TN
Timber Rock Railroad TIBR

Utah Railway UTAH

Green Mountain Railroad GMRC
New England Central Railroad NECR

Bay Coast Railroad BCR
Buckingham Branch Railroad BB
Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad CA
Commonwealth Railway CWRY
North Carolina and Virginia Railroad NCVA
Shenandoah Valley Railroad SV
Virginia Southern Railroad VSRR
Winchester and Western Railroad WW

Ballard Terminal Railroad BT
Cascade and Columbia River Railroad CSCD
Columbia and Cowlitz Railway CLC
Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad PSAP
Tacoma Rail TMRW

West Virginia
Big Eagle Railroad BER

Wisconsin Southern Railroad WSOR

Bay Line Railroad (AL and FL) BAYL
Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern Railroad CFE
Chicago SouthShore and South Bend Railroad (IL and IN) CSS
Cimarron Valley Railroad (CO,KS, and OK) CVR
Kankakee, Beaverville and Southern Railroad (IL and IN) KBSR
Rail Link, Inc, (operates 26 short line railroads) RLIX
New York New Jersey Rail, LLC (NJ and NY) NYNJ
New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway (NJ, NY, and PA) NYSW
St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad (ME, NH, and VT) SLA
Utah Railway (CO and UT) UTAH
Watco Companies (owners of 17 short lines) WATX, WAMX
Wichita, Tillman and Jackson Railway (OK and TX) WTJR
Housatonic Railroad (HRRC) HRRC

It was reported in 2009 that short-line railroads employ 20,000 people in the U.S., and own 30 percent of nation's railroad tracks. About a quarter of all U.S. rail freight travels at least a small part of its journey over a short-line railroad.

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) is an association of North American short line and regional railroads. Members include a variety of Class II and Class III railroads. The ASLRRA acts as a lobbying group for member railroads, representing them for both legislation and regulation. Since 1998, they have also been awarding the Jake Award - recognizing railroads for their safety record which had originally been started by L. S. “Jake” Jacobson.

ASLRRA Official Website:

See also:

Railroad Classes

Class I

Class II

Regional Railroads



Railroads of the U.S.A.

ROAD BLOCK: The mystery shortline railroad locomotive has made it past the bridge and through the dense brush and is now crossing the Dwight Mission Road to reach it's customer. I'm not sure if the engineer is giving me a friendly wave or telling me "I'm number one". In the end, it was me that provided him some entertainment. For some reason, right after this picture was taken, my car decided to leave without me. My car slipped out of park and decided to roll down the highway on it's own. Fortunately, I was able to catch it, and by that time the locomotive was parallel to me. The engineer leaned out of his cab and shouted "Great Catch!". I smiled, gave him the thumbs up, and sped off in embarrassment.  This is an EMD GP7 which belonged to the Southeast Kansas Railroad (reporting mark SKER) and is now part of the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad. - Doug Wertman.    By Doug Wertman (Flickr: Road Block) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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This is an EMD GP7 which belonged to the Southeast Kansas Railroad (reporting mark SKER) and is now part of the South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad.