Rail Baron

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Rail Baron
DesignersR.S. Erickson
T.F. Erickson, Jr.
PublishersAvalon Hill
GenresBoard game, train game
Players3 to 6

Rail Baron is a railroad board game for 3 to 6 players.[1]

Rail Baron was initially published in the 1970s under the name Boxcars by the original designers R.S. Erickson and T.F. Erickson, Jr. It was soon acquired, renamed and reissued by Avalon Hill.


Rail Baron is played on a map of the United States on which the routes of 28 historic railroads, such as the Baltimore & Ohio and the Southern Pacific have been marked. The map is divided into seven regions, Northeast, Southeast, North Central, South Central, Plains, Northwest and Southwest. Major US cities which are connected by the railroads act as destinations for travel. Dots on the railroad routes represent small towns along the way, and serve as distance markers for player movement.

The goal of each player is to accumulate money by moving his or her train token to map destinations which are generated at random via a lookup table. Large cities like New York and Chicago are more likely to be generated as destinations than small cities. Travel from one destination to the next is accomplished by rolling dice to determine distance that can be moved. Players then move their train token along map dots toward their destination.

Upon arrival at a destination, the player collects a cash payoff, and may use the money to upgrade his or her train engine to a faster model, or purchase a railroad. Railroad purchases are key to the game because an owner collects substantial fees from other players who ride his or her railroad during their movement. Meanwhile, the owner can ride his or her own railroads at no cost. Thus, an important decision in the game is whether to buy a variety of railroads in order to gain access to all areas of the map for oneself, or to buy railroads in a given area in order to monopolize it and collect the valuable use fees from opponents.


To win the game a player must accumulate $200,000 and then make a daring run back to their home city (their first city in the game) before any opponent can catch them via what is known as a rover play.


The 28 railroads depicted in the game correspond to 28 actual real-life railroads that operated in the early 20th century. The table below lists these 28 railroads, their cost within the Rail Baron game, their real-life years of operation and eventual corporate outcome, and their current status as of 2009.

Railroad Game Cost Real-Life Years of Operation Real-Life Eventual Outcome Currently¹ Part Of...
Southern Pacific $42,000 1865–1996 Purchased by Rio Grande Industries but retained Southern Pacific name, later purchased by Union Pacific Union Pacific
Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe $40,000 1859–1996 Merged with Burlington Northern to become BNSF BNSF
Union Pacific $40,000 1862–present Currently operating Union Pacific
Pennsylvania Railroad $30,000 1846–1968 Merged with New York Central to form Penn Central Amtrak,
Norfolk Southern
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific $29,000 1852–1980 Liquidated N/A
New York Central $28,000 1831–1968 Merged with Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central Amtrak,
Baltimore & Ohio $24,000 1830–1986 Taken over by the Chesapeake & Ohio to become the Chessie System CSX
Missouri Pacific $21,000 1849–1982 Merged with Union Pacific Union Pacific
Chesapeake & Ohio $20,000 1869–1972 Renamed to Chessie System CSX
Southern Railway $20,000 1894–1982 Merged with Norfolk & Western to create Norfolk Southern Norfolk Southern
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy $20,000 1849–1970 Merged with Great Northern, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland & Seattle to form Burlington Northern BNSF
St. Louis & San Francisco $19,000 1876–1980 Acquired by Burlington Northern BNSF
Louisville & Nashville $18,000 1850–1982 Merged with Seaboard Coast Line to create Seaboard System Railroad CSX
Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific $18,000 1847–1985 Acquired by the Soo Line Railroad Canadian Pacific
Great Northern $17,000 1890–1970 Merged with Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, Northern Pacific and Spokane, Portland & Seattle to form Burlington Northern BNSF
Seaboard Air Line $14,000 1880–1967 Merged with Atlantic Coast Line to form the Seaboard Coast Line CSX
Illinois Central $14,000 1851–1999 Acquired by Canadian National Canadian National
Chicago & North Western $14,000 1865–1995 Merged into Union Pacific Union Pacific
Northern Pacific $14,000 1864–1970 Merged with Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, Great Northern and Spokane, Portland & Seattle to form Burlington Northern BNSF
Atlantic Coast Line $12,000 1840–1967 Merged with Seaboard Air Line to form the Seaboard Coast Line CSX
Norfolk & Western $12,000 1838–1982 Merged with Southern Railway to create Norfolk Southern Norfolk Southern
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio $12,000 1938–1972 Merged with Illinois Central to form Illinois Central Gulf Canadian National
Texas & Pacific $10,000 1871–1976 Merged with the Missouri Pacific Union Pacific
Western Pacific $8,000 1903–1983 Acquired by Union Pacific Union Pacific
Denver & Rio Grande Western $6,000 1870–1988 Renamed to Southern Pacific after purchasing that railroad Union Pacific
Boston & Maine $4,000 1836–1983 Purchased by Pan Am Systems Pan Am Systems
New York, New Haven & Hartford $4,000 1872–1969 Merged into Penn Central Amtrak
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac $4,000 1836–1991 Now part of CSX CSX

¹ = As of September, 2009


Several variants are gaining in popularity. The "Home Swap" lets players switch the home city and first destination before moving for the first time in case their first destination is an easily monopolizable one, or if they want to try to get a better home city. "Free Superchief" lets players upgrade to a SuperChief engine at no cost if they already have an Express engine; this both speeds the game and lessens the dominance of the Pennsylvania RR.

Fans of the game have created dozens of alternate maps for play. There now exist game maps of Europe, New York City, Colorado, and many other locations, as well as fictional regions. There is also a computer version which both speeds play and supports online multiplayer matches.



  1. ^ "Rail Baron". BoardGameGeek.
  2. ^ "Sur un plateau: Empires de métal | Article | RPGGeek".
  3. ^ https://archive.org/details/games-33-1982-november/page/n45/mode/2up

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