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What is a short line railroad?

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What is a short line railroad?
Posted by bearman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 2:40 AM

And, would a shortline send out a locomotive to pickup rolling stock from its customers?

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, February 24, 2019 5:33 AM

bearman

And, would a shortline send out a locomotive to pickup rolling stock from its customers?

 

Bear,That's how a short line makes its living by delivering and picking up cars just like the big boys do.

The majority of modern short lines has sprung up after a Class one railroad decides to sell off maginal profit branch lines. These branch lines is usually bought by a Port Aurthority and then leased to a short line operator like R.J.Corman,GWI and other like operators.

A lot of times these operators turns a low traffic branch line into a profitable operations by regaining the industries the big Class one lost over the years..

Larry

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Posted by j. c. on Sunday, February 24, 2019 5:43 AM

Class III Railroad – often called a “short line railroad.”  Class III railroads have operating revenues of $36.6 million or less

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Posted by bearman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 6:02 AM

Larry, I don't think I was very clear with my second question.  Would a short line send a locomotive out to just pick up cars from, say, customers A, B, and C without dropping any cars off either at those customers or customers D and E?

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, February 24, 2019 6:56 AM

bearman

Larry, I don't think I was very clear with my second question.  Would a short line send a locomotive out to just pick up cars from, say, customers A, B, and C without dropping any cars off either at those customers or customers D and E?

 

Bear,Absoluetly! You see loaded or empty  cars are picked up and taken to the interchange in a timely manner..

Short lines survive by giving their customers the service they request.

Did you know some short lines offer switching service by assigning a engine and crew to do in house switching?  

Larry

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Posted by bearman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 7:26 AM

Great, Larry, thanks. My layout is definitely a shortline with an interchange and I have suddenly realized that it might just be necessary to send out a loco and caboose and pick up cars from their locations and drop them off at the interchange or another industry.

As for the switching services, I always thought that the industry, assuming it was big enough, would do its own switching.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by dehusman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 7:32 AM

bearman

Larry, I don't think I was very clear with my second question.  Would a short line send a locomotive out to just pick up cars from, say, customers A, B, and C without dropping any cars off either at those customers or customers D and E?

 
Any railroad would do that if they didn't have cars for any of those industries.
 
If they did have cars for those industries, then the industries wouldn't be very happy if the railroad didn't spot their cars.
 
One thing modelers and customers don't consider much is if the class 1 railroad the short line connects with  pulls the interchange at 900pm, then it really doesn't matter whether the cars are pulled from industry at 700am or 300pm, as long as they are on the interchange by 900pm they are good.
 
As far as what a short line is, it is a small independent railroad (a branch line and a short line are two completely different things) and is defined by the amount of revenue it generates.  The dollar amount varies by era, lower the further back you go.
 
There are two basic types of short lines, as far as origins go.  There are small railroads that were built as small railroads and were never bought or merged into a larger railroad.  The oldest railroad still operating under its original name is a short line, the Strasburg Railroad (number two is the UP).  The second type of short line is basically a branch line of a class 1 railroad that was sold off and became an independent railroad.  They were fairly rare until the 1970's when laws changed and the class 1's began shedding branches and secondary lines left and right.

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Posted by Water Level Route on Sunday, February 24, 2019 7:32 AM

BRAKIE
Short lines survive by giving their customers the service they request.

So true.  The plant where I work was formerly served by CSX, and now is served by Genessee & Wyoming.  With CSX, regardless of what was going on in the plant, we had to meet their set in stone schedule for their trip in, or forfeit service for the day.  With G&W, if we have work going on and need them to come in early or late to accomodate what we are doing in the plant, they make it happen.

Mike

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Posted by bearman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 7:56 AM

I am learning here.  There is a short line here in Arizona, the Apache Railway, which has been around since 1917 and connects to the BNSF at Holbrook.  It was primarily a logging railroad, supplying some saw mills and a paper mill.  The paper mill, the biggest customer, closed down a few years ago. By that time, it was processing recycled paper.  Prior to its closure, the railroad abandoned about the southern half of its route when the sawmills closed down, primarily in McNary (I believe).  Apache Railway is in bankruptcy right now, and I think it is trying to reorganize, but I don't think it is going to happen.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, February 24, 2019 8:31 AM

Bear,Here's a link to GWI's family of short lines..In the upper right hand corner you will see "Find a railroad" that is a drop down list. If you check these roads out you will learn what commodities they haul..A very useful tool for modeling a short line.

https://gwrr.com/

 

Larry

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Posted by dehusman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 8:35 AM

bearman
As for the switching services, I always thought that the industry, assuming it was big enough, would do its own switching.

A lot of it is contracted out because it can be expensive.  Industries doing their own switching is also a more recent thing, as class ones consolidated and shed locomotives the used locomotive market became flooded with engines so the rental rates were really low.  The industry would have to have somebody qualified to run the engine and if it entered class 1 trackage would have to have somebody qualified on the rules.

For example, there are shortline/switching lines that had two engines so they wouldn't need a run around and could switch facing and trailing point switches.  If you are a class one and have to buy the engines new, and have all the higher costs associated with engine maintenance, that's horribly expensive.  If you are just leasing a couple used engines on a rate that doesn't cover replacement, then its feasible.

Class 1's have different costs, they have more infastructure to cover and higher maintenance costs.  If a bridge burns down on a shortline, the line will probably fold, unless they can get a grant/loan from a public entity torebuild it.  If a bridge burns down on a class 1 there are on staff civil engineers planning the new bridge, pile drivers and bridge material headed that way before the fire is out.   A shortline is maintained to class 1 or 2 track, a class 1 is maintained to class 4 or 5, a HUGE difference in cost.  Class 1's generally have 286k or 315k bridge loadings with double stack clearances, shortlines 263k and maybe 286k.

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Posted by bearman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 8:43 AM

It looks like the Genessee & Wyoming is some sort of holding company which gobbles up short lines.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, February 24, 2019 8:59 AM

dehusman
If a bridge burns down on a shortline, the line will probably fold,

Dave,That would depend on how much traffic is generated beyond that bridge and if there is enough industries that require daily rail service then the bridge will be rebuilt by the owner which is usually a Port Authority with State and Federal money.

As far as track that is a problem with some short lines that operates over 60 or more year old track seeing some modern cars is to heavy for such light rail.

All is not lost as this video shows.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJt-QjL-fu8

Larry

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Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, February 24, 2019 9:04 AM

"Gobbles up" seems a little harsh, as far as the Tomahawk Railway (TR), here in northen WI.

I wouldn't consider the G&Y as monsters that try to put others out of business, which is what the term "gobbles up" implies to me.

The TR provides daily service between the Packaging Corp. of America's pulp mill, and it's huge warehouse in Tomohawk, WI.  It does daily interchange with PCA traffic with the CN.

The TR goes back to it's heritage, which was the MT&W, Marinette, Tomohawk and Western, which was incorporated in 1894 to serve the paper industry.

WI. paper mills have been going extinct since the 90's, and this little railroad, with it's 6 miles of track, and the PCA keeps things going, and people working.

Being taken over by the G&Y has helped keep this a reality.

The TR handles about 8,000 carloads a year, interchanging with the CN.

The G&Y along with others, like Progressive Rail, I think, help short lines keep operating.

Just my My 2 Cents worth Bearman. 

Mike.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, February 24, 2019 9:10 AM

bearman

It looks like the Genessee & Wyoming is some sort of holding company which gobbles up short lines.

 

Bear,They also bought Rail America and all its short lines..

GWI started as a 14.5 mile long short line that served one salt mine-the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad.

Larry

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Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, February 24, 2019 9:12 AM

dehusman
For example, there are shortline/switching lines that had two engines so they wouldn't need a run around and could switch facing and trailing point switches. 

The Wisconsin Northern owned by Progressive Rail, does this.  Their two main locos are a pair of GP15's, sometimes struggle with the length of trains they move, so usually a SW1500 trails, to help with the load, and do switching as they go.

Mike.

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Posted by bearman on Sunday, February 24, 2019 9:40 AM

I did not mean gobble up in a negative way.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 8:14 AM

bearman

Larry, I don't think I was very clear with my second question.  Would a short line send a locomotive out to just pick up cars from, say, customers A, B, and C without dropping any cars off either at those customers or customers D and E?

 
In recent years, shortlines have often been formed to take over branchlines of larger railroads, because the big roads can't make a profit on the line, or at least not make enough profit to make it worth their while. One reason might be the line has customers that only need occassional service, like a lumber yard getting a car or two a week or a stone quarry that ships out a couple of hopper cars every other day.
Stix
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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 6:57 PM

wjstix
a stone quarry that ships out a couple of hopper cars every other day.

In some areas that is seasonal like National Lime at Spor,Ohio,it can ship 60 car trains twice a week during the "construction season" and nothing for weeks during the winter.

Larry

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 7:58 PM

I guess to answer Bearman's question directly, we could see what Wiki has to say:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortline_railroad

Mike.

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Posted by richg1998 on Saturday, March 02, 2019 11:35 AM

I originally posted in shortline economis. Probably belongs here.

You might be interested in a short line a few miles from me. It use to come through my small ciy which is now a rail trail.

Lots of product distribution in the Westfield area.It has expanded the past ten years. Big box companies require a lot of products. Even local lumber compnies. New buildings and sidings added the past years. More trailer trucks to and from these buldings at the turnpike entrance.

In the Yard, many trailer trucks pickup plastic pellets from tank cars. One coating company takes a few cars for unloading for product production.

When I lived in Westfield, a distribution area was developing. It is now, Boise-Cascade distribution center on a CSX siding not far from the Pioneer Valley interchange. Not sure who services this place. It is quite large now. Maybe Pioneer Valley or Springfield Terminal. West Springfield yard is not far away.

https://www.pinsly.com/services-solutions/pioneer-valley-railroad/

The line is sixteen miles long. I sometimes go to the yard in Westfield, Ma and watch from an overhead bridge near the CSX interchange.

It has a track past a company I use to work at in Holyoke. I use to have lunch at a siding in the good weather. A turnout in front of me had no lock. I see cars parked there now on GPS at times so it must have a lock now. I do remember seeing a high rail pickup when I would come into work stopped at the beginning of the siding. I rretired in 2006.

Nearby, they connect with Pan Am Railways mainline.

You can see everything on Google maps.

Many times rolling stock are stored in Holyoke on sidings near old mills.

Last I saw a CF-7 being used. I did see those on a roster list sometime ago.

Rich

If you ever fall over in public, pick yourself up and say “sorry it’s been a while since I inhabited a body.” And just walk away.

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