What does Genesee & Wyoming's sale mean for railfans?

Posted by Brian Schmidt
on Monday, July 1, 2019

A Portland & Western crew switches the yard at Albany, Ore., in March 2017. The railroad is part of the Genesee & Wyoming family of short lines. Photo by Brian Schmidt
There are a lot of unknowns around the $8.4 billion sale of shortline holding company Genesee & Wyoming to Brookfield Infrastructure. What railroads will be sold or retained? Where will the headquarters be? How will the locomotives be painted? The list goes on.

One change I fear is the tightening of information around the railroad operations. As a publicly traded company, G&W has historically provided great access to financials and traffic figures aggregated from its component railroads. However, with its transition into private ownership, that information stream is likely to dry up. That is a shame, because, as the industry leader, G&W's figures and experiences could be used to draw conclusions of the short line industry as a whole. 

We have the same situation with BNSF Railway, which is held entirely by Berkshire Hathaway since 2010. Relevant information on BNSF can be shared through its parent company's reports, but not at the same level as if BNSF were still a publicly traded entity. 

I hope that Brookfield Infrastructure continues G&W's history of disclosing at least carload figures, but I fear this will become just another data point lost in the fight to follow the industry.

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