Questions about the short line and regional railroads tend to fall into four different categories. Please click the following links to jump directly to that section:
Q. What are "SHORT LINE" and "REGIONAL" railroads?
Regional railroads, as defined by the Association of American Railroads (AAR), are line-haul railroads operating at least 350 miles of road and/or earning revenue between $40 million and the Class I revenue threshold ($398.7 million).
Short line railroads, also as defined by the AAR, fall into two categories:
- Local railroads are line-haul railroads below the Regional criteria.
- Switching & Terminal railroads are railroads that are either jointly owned by two railroads for the purpose of transferring cars between railroads or operate solely within a facility or group of facilities.
There is also a precise revenue-based definition of categories of U.S. railroads found in the regulations of the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The STB's accounting regulations group rail carriers into three classes for purposes of accounting and reporting (49 CFR Part 1201 Subpart A):
- Class I: Carriers with annual carrier operating revenues of $433.2 million* or more
- Class II: Carriers with annual carrier operating revenues of less than $433.2 million* but in excess of $34.7 million*
- Class III: Carriers with annual carrier operating revenues of $34.7 million* or less, and all switching and terminal companies regardless of operating revenues.
* These threshold figures are adjusted annually for inflation using the base year of 1991.
Generally, Class III carriers are referred to as short lines, and Class II carriers are referred to as regional railroads.
Q. Where can I find statistical data on short line and regional railroads?
In 2003, ASLRRA commissioned the most comprehensive data study ever done on the small railroad industry. The most recent edition (2009), is available in booklet form. Short Line and Regional Railroad Facts and Figures, can be ordered through the ASLRRA. Contact Dave Whorton (email@example.com) for more information about the booklet, and click here for an order form.
Several other organizations also provide data on short line and regional railroads. Railcar Management, Inc. (RMI), releases detailed carload information for over 200 short line and regional railroads in their weekly RailConnect Index and Railinc provides monthly statistics on the number of carloads originated by nearly 500 short line and regional railroads. Both indexes are published in ASLRRA's newsletter, Views & News. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) publishes a computer program called Profiles of American Railroads, which is updated annually. It contains basic information on all railroads, including number of miles, employees, commodities hauled, etc.. You can order this publication at https://www.aar.org/StatisticsAndPublications/Publications/Pages/default.aspx
The AAR also has state by state data posted on their web site at http://www.aar.org/Resources/RailroadsStates.aspx
Q. Which short line and regional railroads are publicly traded?
- Genesee & Wyoming Inc. - GWR
- Providence & Worcester Railroad - PWX
Q. What U.S. state has the most ASLRRA short line and/or regional railroads? ...The fewest?
Currently, the breakdown of railroad members by region is:
- East 150
- South 100
- Central 138
- Pacific 71
The state with the most members is Texas with 37. The states with the fewest railroad members are Hawaii (tourist operation) and Rhode Island with one member each.
Of the 110 members who became the ASLRA in March 1917, the following companies are still members today:
- Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad
- Atlantic & Western Railroad
- Pickens Railroad
- Sandersville Railroad
Q. Where can I obtain railroad maps?
There are a number of sources available. A few of them are: Deskmap Systems: www.deskmap.com; Specialist Publications and Videos: www.spv.co.uk/atlases.shtml.
Q. What financial and statistical reports are prepared by the STB?
Class I Line-Haul Railroads --Selected Earnings Data, compilation of railway operating revenues, net railway operating income, net income, and revenue ton-miles of freight of Class I railroads developed from quarterly RE&I and CBS forms. (Quarterly)
Report of Railroad Employment -- Class I Line-Haul Railroads (Statement M350), report of number of railroad employees. (Monthly)
Statistics of Class I Freight Railroads in the United States (formerly Transport Statistics), a compilation of Expense, investment, and operating statistics of U.S. Class I railroads developed from the Annual Report Form R-1s. (Annually)
Wage Statistics of Class I Railroads in the United States (Statement A300), compilation of number of employees, service hours, compensation, and mileage run developed from Wage Forms A & B. (Annually)
Q. Which railroads currently report revenues to the STB?
The STB limits its informational requirements to gathering essential information from carriers which make a significant impact on the transportation industry while eliminating the burden on smaller carriers.
The seven (7) Class I railroads which account for the majority of the U.S. rail freight activity are as follows:
- The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company
- Kansas City Southern Railway Company
- Union Pacific Railroad
- Soo Line Railroad Company (Canadian Pacific's U.S. operations)
- CSX Transportation Inc.
- Norfolk Southern Combined Railroad Subsidiaries
- Grand Trunk Corporation (Canadian National's U.S. operations)
Q. What financial and statistical documents are required of Class I railroads by the Surface Transportation Board and when are they due?
Principal Financial And Statistical Documents Required Of Railroads By The Surface Transportation Board
March 31 Of The Following Year
Form R-1 Sch. 250
April 30 Of The Following Year
50 Days After Close Of Quarter
30 Days After Close Of Quarter
90 Days After End Of Year
60 Days After End Of Quarter
Annual Wage Form A&B
45 Days After End Of Year
Quarterly Wage Form A&B
30 Days After End Of Quarter
M-350 Monthly Report Of Employees
15 Days After End Of Month
Q. How can I get the latest Quarterly Rail Cost Adjustment Factor (RCAF) information?
STB serves a decision issuing the RCAF approximately ten (10) days prior to the date of the Quarter based on AAR forecast. You can find a copy of the STB's Decision on AAR's web site at http://www.aar.org/Resources/RailCostIndexes.aspx or the STB's web site www.stb.dot.gov. A summary of the STB's Decision can also be found in ASLRRA's Views & News publication, shortly after being served.
Q. How can I find out about short lines that may be available for purchase?
Contact each Class I railroad directly to inquire about lines that may be available for sale.
OPERATION - ASLRRA
Q. What steps do I need to take to have a topic considered for inclusion as a Connections breakout track?
A survey requesting topic ideas for the next year's Connections Convention will be sent out during May or June each year. Only member companies are eligible to submit topic suggestions for our consideration. If you would like to be added to the invitation list for this survey, contact Kathy Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org. The survey closes after a few weeks, at which time all suggestions for each breakout track are sent to our Planning Committee. Only topics submitted via the online survey will be considered by the Committee. The Committee will take several weeks to review the suggestions, with final session topics and the speakers determined by December or January. If your topic concept is selected, you will be contacted by the Committee in January or February.
Because we receive more topic recommendations for the Annual Convention than we can possibly use, this same list of concepts is utilized by our Regional Meeting Planning Committees to generate ideas for the fall conferences. Decisions on the content of the Regional Meeting programs will be made by August or September of that year.
OPERATIONAL - Railroads
Q. What is involved in starting up a small railroad?
Before you start up a rail operation, you must first obtain approval ("common carrier authority") from the Surface Transportation Board (STB). For information on procedures, download the STB publication, "So You Want to Start a Small Railroad," which can be found on STB's web site at www.stb.dot.gov/stb/docs/So_You_Want_to_Start_Small_RR.pdf
Once the STB approval process is underway, you should contact the IRF group at AAR/RAILINC at 919.651.5077 or at email@example.com to obtain reporting/road marks. For additional information on obtaining reporting marks or transferring existing marks, visit: https://www.railinc.com/rportal/documents/18/260641/GuideforRailroads.pdf. You will also need to arrange participation in the code of interchange rules and other industry-wide agreements through AAR.
Q. How does a railroad issue an embargo?
An embargo is a method of controlling traffic movements when in the judgment of the serving railroad accumulations, threatened congestion or other interference with operation, of a temporary nature, warrant restrictions against such movements. Instructions on placing and handling of embargoes can be found in Customer Operations Circular TD-1 contained in the Official Railway Equipment Register. To issue an embargo online go to AAR/Railinc web site by clicking here.
Q. Where can I obtain a copy of the General Code of Operating Regulations (GCOR)?
The 6th Edition of the GCOR is available for purchase, in different formats, from Staples, by clicking here. In addition to the new rule book itself, a copy of the GCOR Transition Guide (containing changes from the GCOR Fifth Edition to the GCOR Sixth Edition) will be included with each copy of the GCOR ordered.
The contact at Staples is:
3001 Lou Menk Drive
Fort Worth, Texas, 76131
Q. I'm just starting out in the rail industry. What are some of the publications that I should read?
The Pocket List of Railroad Officials
300 American Metro Blvd., Suite 125
Hamilton, NJ 08619
Trade Press Publishing Corp
2016 St. Andrews Dr.
Plainfield, IL 60544
345 Hudson St., 12th Floor
New York, NY 10014
Railway Track & Structures
20 S. Clark St., Suite 2450
Chicago, IL 60603
Kalmbach Publishing Co.
21027 Crossroads Circle
Waukesha, WI 53187
Q. What are the publication and filing requirements for rail rates?
Tariffs - The "ICC Termination Act of 1995" eliminated the manner and forms in which rates must be published and maintained, as well as filing requirements. However, for all commodities other than agricultural products and fertilizer, rail carriers must disclose, upon formal request, rates and charges and service terms that may be applicable to transportation covered by the rate(s). On agricultural products, including grain and grain products and fertilizer, rail carriers must publish and make available rates, charges, etc. (For information on disclosure, publication and notice requirements, etc., see 49 CFR Part 1300)
Contracts - The "ICC Termination Act of 1995" required rail carriers to file only Contract summaries covering the transportation of agricultural products, including grain and grain by products. For contracts covering non-agricultural products, summary filing is no longer required.(For information on the filing procedures and formats for contract summaries on agricultural products, including grain and grain products, see 49 CFR Part 1313.)
Exempt rates - Agreements can simply be issued in any form agreed to by the rail carrier and shipper. (Applicable only to commodities and services specifically ordered exempt by the STB. (For exemptions, see 49 CFR Part 1039)
Q. Where can I find a copy of the Railroad Industry Agreement?
For a copy of the amended, current version of the Railroad Industry Agreement, click here. To download the waiver request form, click here.
Q. Where can I get training for my locomotive engineers?
Most railroads can train their own locomotive engineers based on their individual training programs that have been submitted to the FRA. Outside contractors are available, but caution should be taken when selecting one. Only a designated supervisor of locomotive engineers (DSLE) can certify a locomotive engineer. Outside contractors may do the training, but unless they are a DSLE they cannot certify the engineer.
Another option for your railroad training needs is NARS/National Academy of Railroad Sciences. NARS is an ASLRRA Member Partner Program, meaning that they are ASLRRA's preferred provider of all your railroad training needs. For more information on NARS, click here.
Q. Does my railroad have to test for random drug and alcohol?
The regulation requires all common carrier railroads that have 15 or more Hours of Service employees or operates on the tracks of another railroad (except for simple interchange, usually less than a mile) must have a random drug testing program. ASLRRA has a program that can be used to comply with the regulation and recommends that railroads use the ASLRRA third party administrator to do the testing and scheduling.
Q. Where can I find information on new developments in the Hours of Service regulations?
ASLRRA's website contains an up-to-date section containing documents and articles concerning the new HOS regulations. To access this section, click here.
Have questions about the HOS regulations? We have a detailed list of frequently asked questions (FAQs), available to ASLRRA railroad members, on the ASLRRA members website. To see these FAQs, and much more information that is available through a paid ASLRRA membership, click here. NOTE - You will need your password to access that information. To retrieve your password, contact ASLRRA at 202-628-4500
ASLRRA also has similar sections on other regulatory topics, such as bridge regulations, narrowbanding and PTC, among others. To view this section of the website, click here.
Q. If I don't understand a certain regulation or technical bulletin where can I go for help?
Regulations and FRA Technical Bulletins can be very confusing and sometimes outside help may be required. If you have questions on any regulatory requirement you should first call your regional FRA office. If you are not sure who to call or have a specific problem and want to discuss it with someone, ASLRRA members can call Keith Borman at (202) 585-3448 in ASLRRA's Washington office.
Q. Where can I get Hazardous Material Training?
There are several providers of good quality training that are listed in the ASLRRA's Suppliers Directory. There are other training sources close to your railroad that probably are more than willing to help. Your customers are a great resource. They are required to train their employees on the hazards of hazmat handling and you can ask them to permit your employee to sit in on their sessions. Local fire departments, rescue squads and police department are other good resources to use.
Q. Where can I find a list of contractors and equipment suppliers that will best serve my small railroad operation?
Please refer to our E-Marketplace section where you can find over 350 rail industry suppliers and consultants. This one-stop shop service allows anyone to request bids for goods and services at no charge.
Q. How do I find out about railroad employment?
Contact the railroads directly. Many of them have employment information on their web sites. If you are currently a railroad employee, you may also want to visit the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board's web site at: www.rrb.gov/PandS/Jobs/rrjobs.asp
Also check out our member, Edna A. Rice, Executive Recruiter.