Railroad classes

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The Class I designated railroads in North America in (2006)

In the United States, railroads are classified as Class I, II or III, as established by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) for the year ending June 30, 1911.


Initially, the ICC defined a classification system by annual gross revenue taken in by each entity. Class I railroads had an annual operating revenue of at least $1 million, while Class III railroad incomes were under $100,000 per annum. All such corporations were subject to reporting requirements on a quarterly or annual schedule. If a railroad slipped below its 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 dissolution of the ICC in 1996, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has become responsible for defining criteria for each railroad class. The bounds are typically redefined every several years to adjust for inflation and other factors.

Classification history[edit]

The initial $1 million criterion for a Class I railroad was used until January 1, 1956, when the figure was 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; cutoffs were 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 qualified as Class I.

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

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:


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[edit]

Class I criteria[edit]

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]

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.[10]

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

Class II[edit]

A Class II railroad hauls freight and is mid-sized in terms of operating revenue. As of 2011, a railroad with revenues greater than $37.4 million but less than $433.2 million for at least three consecutive years is considered Class II.[11] 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.

Current Class II criteria[edit]

The last major change of the upper bound for a Class II railroad was in 1992, when the Florida East Coast Railway was changed from a Class I railroad to Class II.[12] A previous change in 1991, which prevented two railroads-- Montana Rail Link and Wisconsin Central—from becoming Class I, was made at the request of the two railroads, as they did not wish to take on the extra cost and paperwork associated with Class I status.[13] Changes since then have been adjustments for inflation.

The Buckingham Branch Railroad is a typical example of a Class III shortline in Virginia

Class III[edit]

A Class III or short-line railroad has an annual operating revenue of less than $20 million (1991 dollars).[14] Class III railroads are typically local short-line railroads 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 or abandoned portions of main lines. 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[edit]

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

Railroad AAR rep. mark
Alabama & Tennessee River Railway ATN
Alabama Southern Railroad ABS
Alabama Warrior Railway ABWR
Birmingham Southern Railroad BS
CG Railway CGR
Chattahoochee & 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 & Missouri Railroad AM
Arkansas Southern Railroad ARS
Fort Smith Railroad FSR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Almanor Railroad AL
Central California Traction Company 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 & 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 & Rio Grande Railroad SLRG
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Delaware Coastline Railroad DLCR
Maryland & Delaware Railroad MDDE
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Apalachicola Northern Railroad AN
Bay Line Railroad BAYL
First Coast Railroad FCRD
Florida East Coast Railroad FEC
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 & Western Railway PWRY
Riverport Railroad LLC RVPR
Tazewell & Peoria Railroad TZPR
Toledo, Peoria & Western Railroad TPW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Bee Line BLEX
Central Indiana & Western Railroad CEIW
Central Railroad Company of Indiana CIND
Central Railroad Company of Indianapolis CERA
Chesapeake & Indiana Railroad CKIN
Chicago Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad CFE
Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad CSS
Dubois County Railroad DCRR
Elkhart & 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 & Southern Railroad KBSR
Louisville & Indiana Railroad LIRC
Lucas Oil Rail Line LORL
Madison Railroad CMPA
Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway TPW
Vermilion Valley Railroad VVRR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Appanoose County Community Railroad APNC
Burlington Junction Railway BJRY
Cedar Rapids & 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 & Upton Railroad GU
Pan Am Railways PAR
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Ann Arbor Railroad AA
Adrian & Blissfield Railroad ADBF
Charlotte Southern Railroad CHS
Detroit Connecting Railroad DCON
Escanaba & Lake Superior Railroad ELS
Grand Elk Railroad GDLK
Huron & Eastern Railway HESR
Lake Superior & 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 Railroad BRAN
Fremont & Elkhorn Valley Railroad FEVR
Kyle Railroad KLYE
Nebkota Railway NRI
Nebraska Central Railroad NCRC
Nebraska Northeastern Railway NENE
Nebraska Northwestern Railroad NNW
Nebraska, Kansas & Colorado RailNet NKC
Omaha, Lincoln & Beatrice Railway OLB
Sidney & 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 & Hammondsport Railroad BH
Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad DL
Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern Railroad MHWA
Batten Kill Railroad BKRR
Depew, Lancaster & Western Railroad DLWR
Falls Road FRR
Finger Lakes Railway FGLK
Adirondack Scenic Railroad ADIX
Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad LAL
Ontario Central Railroad ONCT
Ontario Midland Railroad OMID
Buffalo Southern Railroad BSRR
Arcade & Attica Railroad ARA
New York & Atlantic Railway NYA
Rochester & Southern Railroad RSR
Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad WNYP
North Carolina
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railway ACWR
Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad AR
Alexander Railroad ARC
Atlantic & Western Railway ATW
Blue Ridge Southern Railroad BLU
Caldwell County Railroad CWCY
Thermal Belt Railway TBRY
North Dakota
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Red River Valley & Western Railroad RRVW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Arkansas Southern Railroad ARS
Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad BNG
Farmrail FMRC
Hollis & Eastern Railroad HE
Kiamichi Railroad KRR
Northwestern Oklahoma Railroad NOKR
Sand Springs Railway SS
Stillwater Central Railroad SLWC
Texas, Oklahoma & Eastern Railroad TOE
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Ashland Railway ASRY
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad CVSR
Ohio Central Railroad OHCR
Toledo Lake Erie & Western Railroad TLEW
Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway WLE
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
Brandywine Valley Railroad BVRY
Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad DL
Pittsburgh & Ohio Central Railroad POHC
New Hope & Ivyland Railroad NHRR
Reading Blue Mountain & 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 & Western Railway GRLW
Hampton & Branchville Railroad HB
Lancaster & Chester Railway LC
Pee Dee River Railway PDRR
Pickens Railway PICK
South Carolina Central Railroad SCRF

Aiken Railway AIKR

South Dakota
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Dakota Southern Railway DSRC
Ellis & Eastern Railroad 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 & 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 & Northern Railway PCN
Sabine River and Northern Railroad SRN
Texas and Northern Railway TN
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Utah Railway UTAH
Comstock Mountain Lion Railroad CMRR
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 & Albemarle Railroad CA
Chesapeake Western Railway CHW
Commonwealth Railway CWRY
Norfolk Portsmouth Beltline NPBL
North Carolina & Virginia Railroad NCVA
Shenandoah Valley Railroad SV
Virginia Southern Railroad VSRR
Winchester & Western Railroad WW
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Ballard Terminal Railroad BT
Cascade & Columbia River Railroad CSCD
Columbia & Cowlitz Railway CLC
Tacoma Rail TMRW
Tri-City Railroad TCRY
Railroad AAR rep. mark
Bay Line Railroad (AL, FL) BAYL
Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad CFE
Chicago SouthShore & South Bend Railroad (IL, IN) CSS
Cimarron Valley Railroad (CO, KS, OK) CVR
Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern Railroad (IL, IN) KBSR
Rail Link, Inc, (operates 26 short-line railroads) RLIX
New York New Jersey Rail, LLC (NJ, NY) NYNJ
New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway (NJ, NY, PA) NYSW
St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad (ME, NH, VT) SLA
Utah Railway (CO, UT) UTAH
Watco Companies (owners of 17 short lines) WATX, WAMX
Wichita, Tillman & Jackson Railway (OK, TX) WTJR
Housatonic Railroad (MA, CT, NY) HRRC

Continuation of the class system today[edit]

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 49 C.F.R. 1201 Subpart A §1–1
  2. ^ Association of American Railroads|AAR "Class I Railroad Statistics", April 21, 2008,
  3. ^ Association of American Railroads|AAR "Class I Railroad Statistics", November 18, 2008.
  4. ^ Association of American Railroads|AAR "Class I Railroad Statistics", May 24, 2010.
  5. ^ Association of American Railroads|AAR "Class I Railroad Statistics", October 29, 2010.
  6. ^ "Class I Railroad Statistics" (PDF). Association of American Railroads. February 7, 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  7. ^ a b "Class I Railroad Statistics" (PDF). Association of American Railroads. April 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-31. 
  8. ^ Arrivals and Departures, Trains March 1991
  9. ^ Arrivals and Departures, Trains November 1992
  10. ^ http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/sor-96-334/page-4.html#docCont
  11. ^ ASLRRA FAQ
  12. ^ "Arrivals and Departures". Trains. November 1992. 
  13. ^ Spriet, Ll; Campbell, Cb; Dyck, Dj (March 1991). "Arrivals and Departures". Trains (Free full text) 59 (3): 243–52. ISSN 0047-6374. PMID 1921515. 
  14. ^ 49 CFR Part 1201, General Instructions 1-1, GPO, 2007

External links[edit]