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Short line railroad

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Short line railroad

The classification of railroads in the United States as Class I, II or III, was started by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) with its report for the year ending June 30, 1911.


Initially, the United States Interstate Commerce Commission defined a classification system by annual gross revenues taken in by an entity. Class I railroads were defined as railroads with an annual operating revenue of at least $1 million, while Class III railroads had incomes of less than $100,000 per annum. All such corporations were subject to reporting requirements on a quarterly or annual schedule. If a railroad slipped below the class qualification threshold for a period, it was not necessarily demoted immediately.

As an example consider that
in 1925, the ICC reported:
 • 174 Class I railroads,
 • 282 Class II railroads, and
 • 348 Class III railroads.

Since the dissolution of the ICC in 1996, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has become responsible for defining the criteria of each railroad class. The bounds are typically redefined every several years to adjust for inflation and other factors.

Classification history

The initial $1 million criterion for a Class I railroad was used until January 1, 1956, when it increased to $3 million (equal to $26,023,256 today). In 1956, the ICC counted 113 Class I line-haul operating railroads (excluding "3 class I companies in systems") and 309 Class II railroads (excluding "3 class II companies in systems"). The Class III category was dropped in 1956 but reinstated in 1978. By 1963, the number of Class I railroads had dropped to 102; the cut-off increased to $5 million by 1965 (equal to $37,418,163 today), to $10 million in 1976 (equal to $41,444,444 today), and to $50 million in 1978 (equal to $180,790,816 today), at which point only 41 railroads were still Class I.

In a special move in 1979, all switching and terminal railroads were re-designated as Class III, even those with Class I or Class II revenues.

The Class II and Class III designations are now rarely used outside the rail transport industry. The Association of American Railroads typically divides non–Class I companies into three categories:

  • Regional railroads operate at least 350 miles or make at least $40 million per year.
  • Local railroads are non-regional railroads that engage in line-haul service.
  • Switching and terminal railroads mainly switch cars between other railroads or provide service from other lines to a common terminal.


Any large freight railroad company in the United States, Mexico, or Canada is classified based on operating revenue. Railroads are classified as Class I, Class II, or Class III. The exact revenues required to be in each class have varied over time and are now continuously adjusted for inflation.

Class I

Class I criteria

In the United States, the Surface Transportation Board defines a Class I railroad as "having annual carrier operating revenues of $250 million or more" after adjusting for inflation using the Railroad Freight Price Index developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.[1] According to the Association of American Railroads, Class I railroads had a minimum carrier operating revenue of $346.8 million (USD) in 2006,[2] $359 million in 2007,[3] $401.4 million in 2008,[4] $378.8 million in 2009,[5] $398.7 million in 2010[6](p1) and $433.2 million in 2011.[7](p1)

In early 1991, two Class II railroads, Montana Rail Link and Wisconsin Central, asked the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to increase the minimum annual operating revenue criteria (then established at US$93.5 million) to avoid being redesignated as Class I, which would have resulted in increased administrative and legal costs.[8] The Class II maximum criterion was increased in 1992 to $250 million annually, which resulted in the Florida East Coast Railway having its status changed to Class II. Rail carriers with less than $20 million in revenue are designated as Class III.[9]

In Canada, a Class I rail carrier, is defined (as of 2004) as a company that has earned gross revenues exceeding $250 million (CAD) for each of the previous two years.

Currently, eleven railroads in North America are designated as Class I. In the United States Amtrak and seven freight railroads are designated Class I based on 2011 measurements released in 2013.[7](p1)

Canada, with no trackage in the United States
Trackage in both the United States and Canada
United States, with no trackage in Canada or Mexico
Trackage in both the United States and Mexico
Mexico, with no trackage in the United States

Class II

A Class II (Class 2) railroad is a freight-hauling railroad that is mid-sized in terms of operating revenue. As of 2006, a railroad with revenues greater than $20.5 million but less than $277.7 million for at least three consecutive years is considered a Class II railroad. Switching and terminal railroads are excluded from Class II status.

Railroads considered by the Association of American Railroads as "Regional Railroads" are typically Class II railroads.

Current Class II criteria

The last major change of the upper bound for a Class II railroad was in 1992; this changed the Florida East Coast Railway from a Class I railroad to Class II.[10] A previous change in 1991 prevented two railroads, Montana Rail Link and Wisconsin Central, from being classified as Class I railroads; this change was made at the request of the two railroads involved, as they did not wish to take on the extra cost and paperwork associated with Class I status.[11] Changes since have been adjustments for inflation.

Class III

A Class III railroad, or a short line railroad, is a rail company with an annual operating revenue of less than $20 million (1991 dollars).[12] Class III railroads are typically local short line railroads, either serving a small number of towns and industries or hauling cars for one or more larger railroads. Many Class III railroads were once branch lines of larger railroads that were spun off, or portions of mainlines that had been abandoned. Most Class III railroads are owned by railroad holding companies, such as Genesee & Wyoming and Iowa Pacific Holdings.

List of Class III railroads by state

As of April 2013, the Class III railroads in operation are:

Railroad AAR rep. mark
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
Jefferson Warrior Railroad JEFW
Wiregrass Central Railroad WGCR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Apache Railway APA
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Arkansas and Missouri Railroad AM
Arkansas Southern Railroad ARS
Fort Smith Railroad FSR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Almanor Railroad AL
Central California Traction CCT
Los Angeles Junction Railway LAJ
McCloud Railway CZRY
Pacific Harbor Line PHL
Pacific Imperial Railroad PIR
Trona Railway TRC
Pacific Sun Railroad PSRR
Richmond Pacific Railroad RPRC
San Diego and Imperial Valley Railroad SDIY
Santa Maria Valley Railroad SMV
Sierra Northern Railway SERA
California Northern Railroad CFNR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Denver Rock Island Railroad DRIR
San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad SLRG
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Delaware Coastline Railroad DLCR
Maryland and Delaware Railroad MDDE
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Apalachicola Northern Railroad AN
Bay Line Railroad BAYL
NASA Railroad NLAX
Seminole Gulf Railway SGLR
South Central Florida Express SCFE
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Chattahoochee Industrial Railroad CIRR
Georgia Central Railway GC
Georgia Northeastern Railroad GNRR
Georgia Southwestern Railroad GSWR
Sandersville Railroad SAN
St. Mary's Railroad SM
Valdosta Railway VR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Bloomer Line BLOL
Central Illinois Railroad CIRY
Decatur Junction Railway DT
Eastern Illinois Railroad EIRC
Illinois Railway IR
Keokuk Junction Railway KJRY
Peoria and Western Railway PWRY
Riverport Railroad LLC RVPR
Tazewell and Peoria Railroad TZPR
Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad TPW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
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
Madison Railroad CMPA
Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway TPW
Vermilion Valley Railroad VVRR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Appanoose County Community Railroad APNC
Burlington Junction Railway BJRY
Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway CIC
Iowa Northern Railway IANR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Kaw River Railroad KAW
Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad KO
Kansas City Terminal Railway KCT
South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad SKOL
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Maryland Midland Railway MMID
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Grafton and Upton Railroad GU
Pan Am Railways PAR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Ann Arbor Railroad AA
Adrian and Blissfield Railroad ADBF
Charlotte Southern Railroad CHS
Detroit Connecting Railroad DCON
Escanaba and Lake Superior Railroad ELS
Grand Elk Railroad GDLK
Huron and Eastern Railway HESR
Lake Superior and Ishpeming Railroad LSI
Lake State Railway LSRC
Lapeer Industrial Railroad LIRR
Marquette Rail MQT
Tecumseh Branch Connecting Railroad TCBY
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Kansas City Terminal Railway KCT
Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis TRRA
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Meridian Southern Railway MDS
Mississippi Southern Railroad MSR
Mississippian Railway Cooperative MSRW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Brandon Corporation BRAN
Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad FEVR
Kyle Railroad KLYE
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 Mexico
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Arizona Eastern Railway AZER
Santa Fe Southern Railway SFS
Southwestern Railroad SW
Texas-New Mexico Railroad TNMR
New York
Railroad AAR rep. mark
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
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Aberdeen, Carolina and Western Railway ACWR
Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad AR
Atlantic and Western Railway ATW
North Dakota
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Red River Valley and Western Railroad RRVW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
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
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Ashland Railway ASRY
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad CVSR
Ohio Central Railroad OHCR
Toledo Lake Erie & Western TLEW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Albany & Eastern Railroad AERC
City of Prineville Railway COPR
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
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Allegheny Valley Railroad AVR
Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad DL
Pittsburgh and Ohio Central Railroad POHC
New Hope and Ivyland Railroad NHRR
Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad RBMN
Shamokin Valley Railroad SVRR
Union Railroad URR
South Carolina
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Carolina Southern Railroad CALA
Carolina Piedmont Railroad CPDR
Greenville and Western Railway GRLW
Hampton and Branchville Railroad HB
Lancaster and Chester Railway LC
Pee Dee River Railway PDRR
Pickens Railway PICK
South Carolina Central Railroad SCRF
South Dakota
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Dakota Southern Railway DSRC
Ellis and Eastern EE
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Alamo Gulf Coast Railroad AGCR
Alliance Terminal Railroad ATR
Angelina and Neches River Railroad ANR
Austin and Western Railroad AWRR
Blacklands Railroad BLR
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
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Utah Railway UTAH
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Green Mountain Railroad GMRC
New England Central Railroad NECR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
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
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Ballard Terminal Railroad BT
Cascade and Columbia River Railroad CSCD
Columbia and Cowlitz Railway CLC
Tacoma Rail TMRW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
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 (MA, CT, and NY) HRRC

Continuation of the class system today

The Surface Transportation Board continues to use the designations of Class II and Class III since there are different labor regulations for the two classes.

See also


  • PDF)
  • Surface Transportation Board FAQs - Economic and Industry Information
  • STB Ex Parte No. 647
  • AAR - Class I Railroad Statistics PDF (58.4 KB)
  • 49 CFR Part 1201-Railroad Companies PDF ( 454 KB)

External links

  • ; retrieved April 24, 2005.
  • Surface Transportation Board FAQs - Economic and Industry Information
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