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Watco Transportation Services, L.L.C.
HeadquartersPittsburg, Kansas
Reporting markWTCO, WAMX
Dates of operation1983–present
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length4,500 miles (7,200 km)

Watco Companies, L.L.C. (Watco) is a transportation company based in Pittsburg, Kansas, formed in 1983 by Charles R. Webb. Watco was composed of four divisions: transportation, mechanical, terminal and port services, and compliance. Watco is the owner of Watco Transportation Services, L.L.C. (WTS), which operates 41 short line railroads in the U.S. and Australia. It is one of the largest short line railroad companies in the United States. As of December 2018, it operates on 5,500 miles (8,900 km) of leased and owned track. Also under transportation is the contract switching the company provides service for 30 customers. That was the service that Watco originally offered before it branched out into other areas.

Watco's mechanical division has 19 car repair shops and is one of the largest mechanical services provider in the United States.[citation needed] They provide program, contract and emergency repairs. These services include maintenance of all types of cars including tank cars and coal fleets, and the preparation and cleaning of boxcars.

The terminal and port services division operates ten warehouses throughout the country. They also operate several transloading facilities and specialize in loading and unloading railcars and moving commodities to their next destination.

Watco operated two port services in the Gulf Region. Greens Port Terminal on the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County, Texas and Port Birmingham Terminal on the Black Warrior River in Alabama both provide access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Watco's newest division, Watco Supply Chain Services, provides supply chain logistics for highway, intermodal, rail, and international logistics.


CBH class hauled train at Yilliminning, Western Australia in October 2013
Watco Santa Fe CF7 #5 at Pittsburg, Texas in August 2015

Watco was established in 1983 by Charles R. "Dick" Webb. The first operation was an industrial switching operation in DeRidder, Louisiana that is still in existence. Webb then started his first mechanical operation, a railcar repair shop in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1985.

The Coffeyville mechanical shop was held captive to the major rail lines, and during discussions with the Union Pacific the opportunity arose to purchase the line running from Nevada, Missouri, to Coffeyville. This was the Union Pacific's first short line sale. Watco then looked to the West Region, acquiring the Blue Mountain Railroad in 1998, the Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad in 1992 and the Eastern Idaho Railroad in 1993.

In 1998, it began operating the Stillwater Central Railroad in Oklahoma and the Timber Rock Railroad in Texas. The Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad was acquired in 2001 and the Pennsylvania Southwestern Railroad in 2003. In 2004, they started operations of the Great Northwest Railroad in Washington, the Kaw River in Kansas and Missouri, and the Mission Mountain Railroad in Montana. In 2005 it began operating the Alabama Southern Railroad, the Louisiana Southern Railroad, the Mississippi Southern Railroad, and the Yellowstone Valley Railroad in Montana. The Austin Western Railroad was started in 2007 and shares rail with passenger rail. It also acquired Millennium Rail, a mechanical service company in 2007. The Baton Rouge Southern and the Pacific Sun Railroad were started in 2008, and they also acquired the mechanical services company Fitzgerald Railcar Services and Reload, a 25-year experienced transloading business. The Grand Elk Railroad began operations in 2009.

In December 2010 Watco entered the Australian rail haulage market when it was awarded a 10-year contract to operate grain services for the CBH Group of Western Australia.[1][2] Operations commenced in March 2012.[3][4] In late 2016 Watco Australia was awarded an infrastructure train contract with Brookfield Rail operating ballast and rail work trains.

On December 15, 2010, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, announced an agreement whereby it would invest up to $150 million over the next year in Watco in exchange for a preferred equity position in the company. Kinder Morgan made an initial $50 million preferred shares investment on January 3, 2011.[5] Additional $50 million equity investment completed in December 2011.[6] Kinder Morgan will receive 3.25% quarterly distribution on the equity investment. Kinder Morgan is a leading pipeline transportation and energy storage company in North America. The transaction provides capital to Watco for further expansion of specific projects and offers Kinder Morgan the opportunity to share in the subsequent growth.

In April 2011, Watco began operating the Autauga Northern Railroad, between Maplesville and Autauga Creek, Alabama, the third short line in Alabama operated by Watco.[7]

On December 28, 2011, Watco began operations of the Swan Ranch Railroad[8] in the Swan Ranch Industrial Park in Cheyenne, Wyoming. On January 1, 2012, Watco gained majority ownership of the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, a regional railroad in Wisconsin, and on February 1, 2012, took over operations of the Birmingham Southern Railroad.[9][10]

On June 4, 2014, Watco and The Greenbrier Companies announced that it would create an equally owned joint venture, GBW Railcar Services, providing railcar repair services.[11] This joint venture was dissolved in August 2018.[12]

On March 30, 2021, Watco and Canadian National subsidiary Wisconsin Central reached a deal whereby WCL would sell roughly 900 miles of non-core rail lines located in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario to Watco.[13]

In August 2021, Watco lost the contract to operate grain trains for CBH Group to Aurizon.[14]


Railroad Began operations Track length (mi.) Commodities Facts
Alabama Southern Railroad (ABS) November 2005 85 [15] iron and steel, paper products, aggregates Acquired through lease agreement with KCS
Alabama Warrior Railway (ABWR) August 2009 15 [16] coal, aggregates, pipe, scrap steel, cement Started as Marylee Railroad in 1895
Ann Arbor Railroad (AA) January 2013 50 [17] automotive materials Purchased from Ann Arbor Acquisition Corp, services mostly Chrysler plant producing Jeep Cherokees
Arkansas Southern Railroad (ARS) October 2005 62 [18] corn and soybean products Two branches, 32-mile northern branch and a 30-mile southern branch
Austin Western Railroad (AWRR) October 2007 155 [19][20] aggregates, crushed limestone, calcium bicarbonate, lumber, beer, chemicals, plastic, paper Began sharing the railway with commuter operations in 2010 with Austin, Texas
Autauga Northern Railroad (AUT) April 2011 44 [21][22] paper products and aggregates Third shortline Watco acquired in Alabama
Baton Rouge Southern Railroad (BRS) November 2008 1.5[23] chemicals, bauxite, plastic pellets, raw coke, calcinated coke Provides car storage and use by local chemical companies
Bogalusa Bayou Railroad (BBAY) 2014 6[24] paper Serves Bogalusa's International Paper
Birmingham Terminal Railway (BHRR) February 2012 75.9 [25] iron ore, coal, steel sheets and pipe The dragon in the logo represents the fire that is used to smelt steel
Blue Ridge Southern Railroad (BLU) July 2014 93 woodchips, chemicals, paper, cement Former Norfolk Southern T-Line (Murphy Branch), W-Line, and TR-line. Based in Canton, NC.
Boise Valley Railroad (BVRR) November 2009 36[23] frozen vegetables, lumber, fertilizer, fuels Shares customers with the YSVR and EIRR
Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad (DREI) September 2018[26] 182[27] chemicals, plastics, soybeans, and corn Operates on ex-CSX Transportation trackage acquired in 2018 and ex-Eastern Illinois Railroad trackage acquired in 2019
Dutchtown Southern Railroad (DUSR) 2021 1.76[28][29] products for the chemical, gas, and energy industries operates on trackage leased from Canadian National
Eastern Idaho Railroad (EIRR) 1993 270[30] corn, sugar, wheat, frozen vegetables, coal Largest Union Pacific sale
Ithaca Central Railroad (ITHR) December 8, 2018 48.8[31] salt, plastics, magnesium chloride Leased from Norfolk Southern
Grand Elk Railroad (GDLK) March 2009 151[32] lumber products, corn, steel Interchanges with 3 Class I railroads
Great Northwest Railroad (GRNW) March 2004 77 [33][34] lumber, products, fertilizers, aggregates Competition to reach Lewiston while the line was being built was called the "Clearwater River Railroad Wars"
Kanawha River Railroad (KNWA) July 2016 309 [35] Chemicals, Aggregates, Agricultural Products Second railroad to be acquired by Watco in the state of West Virginia. Appalachian & Ohio was briefly operated by Watco Transportation Services. Operates on former Norfolk Southern tracks in Ohio and West Virginia.
Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (KO) July 2001 820 [36][37] wheat, grain products, chemicals, soybean products Has state and federal shipping agreements
Kansas City Terminal Railway (KCT) xxx xxx Transfer service and scrap hauler Kansas City area
Kaw River Railroad (KAW) June 2004 43 [38][39] iron and steel, corn starch, lumber products, aggregates, plastics, industrial products Expansions in 2005, 2006, and 2007
Louisiana Southern Railroad (LAS) September 2005 167 [40][41] paper products, aggregates, oils Interchanges at Gibsland, Sibley, and Pineville
Mission Mountain Railroad (MMT) December 2004 40 [42][43] lumber, wheat Originally part of the Haskell Pass, built in 1904
Mississippi Southern Railroad (MSR) April 2005 28[44][45] corn and soybeans Interchanges with KCS at Newton
Pacific Sun Railroad (PSRR) October 2008 62[46] corn, soy, lumber, plastic pellets, beer, paints, recyclables Crews accommodate the schedules of BNSF, COASTER, Amtrak and Metrolink.
Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad (PCC) 1992 202 [47] wheat, frozen vegetables $25 million in state-sponsored track rehabilitation backed by 100-year lease
Pennsylvania Southwestern Railroad (PSWR) April 2003 12[48][49] steel scrap, steel products First Watco operation to service a steel mill
Pecos Valley Southern Railway (PVSR) 2012 19 sand, gravel, crude oil Formerly operated by Capitol Aggregates
San Antonio Central Railway (SAC) 2012 xxx xxx Operates within Port San Antonio's East Kelly Railport at night
Stillwater Central Railroad (SLWC) 1998 279 [50] crude oil, sand, gypsum, cement, stone, steel Higher than industry average rating of customer service and personal attention
South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL) March 1987 380 [50] grains, cement, coal, fertilizer, aggregates, steel, sand Operates out of the historic Cherryvale, Kansas depot and serves the Port of Catoosa at Tulsa, Oklahoma
Swan Ranch Railroad (SRRR) December 2011 3.25 [51] asphalt When finished, the Swan Ranch Industrial Park will encompass 7,200 acres
Timber Rock Railroad (TIBR) 1998 41.5 [52] aggregates, lumber products, plastics, fuel Reduced to the single line running from Kirbyville, Texas to DeRidder, Louisiana.
Vicksburg Southern Railroad (VSOR) January 2006 21[53][54] lumber, steel Formerly known as the Redwood Branch
Watco Australia May 2012 NA - operator only grain First international operation of Watco
Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) January 2012 700 [55] lumber, coal, liquid and dry fertilizers, corn, beans, plastic, aggregates, ethanol, liquid petroleum Wisconsin's second-largest railroad
Yellowstone Valley Railroad (YSVR) August 2005 172 [56][57] grains, plastics, ethanol, crude oil, sand


  1. ^ US group wins CBH contract from QR National The Australian December 14, 2010
  2. ^ Watco wins CBH grain rail contract Archived 2014-02-03 at the Wayback Machine Rail Express December 15, 2010
  3. ^ CBH, Watco rail agreement starts early Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine World Grain April 2, 2012
  4. ^ CBH grain wagons go to work early Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine Farm Weekly’’ April 5, 2012
  5. ^ "Kinder Morgan, Inc, Form 10-K, Annual Report, Filing Date Mar 2, 2011". secdatabase.com. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  6. ^ "Kinder Morgan, Inc, Form 10-K, Annual Report, Filing Date Feb 23, 2012" (PDF). secdatabase.com. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  7. ^ "Watco announces Alabama short line debut". Railway Age. 12 April 2011. Archived from the original on 6 December 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Watco to operate Swan Ranch Railroad in Wyoming". Trains. 30 November 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  9. ^ "Watco to buy control of Wisconsin & Southern". Trains Magazine. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  10. ^ "Watco adds third railroad in a week". Trains. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  11. ^ "Greenbrier Companies, Inc, Form 8-K, Current Report, Filing Date Jun 4, 2014". secdatabase.com. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  12. ^ GBW Railcar Services uncouples Railway Age August 21, 2018
  13. ^ "CN and Watco Reach Agreement on Sale of Rail Lines in Northern Ontario, Wisconsin, and Michigan | cn.ca".
  14. ^ "CBH cuts ties with rail operator Watco six months early". 6 August 2021.
  15. ^ Alabama Southern Railroad, accessed June 2012
  16. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 35204, June 2012
  17. ^ http://www.annarbor.com/business-review/kansas-company-enters-agreement-to-buy-ann-arbor-railroad/ , accessed May 2014
  18. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34761, October 26, 2005
  19. ^ Railroad Retirement Board, Employer Status Determination: Austin Western Railroad, Inc., January 22, 2008
  20. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 35075, September 14, 2007
  21. ^ Railroad Retirement Board, Employer Status Determination: Autauga Northern Railroad, Inc., April 14, 2011
  22. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 35075, April 4, 2011
  23. ^ a b STB Finance Docket No. 35169, August 1, 2008
  24. ^ "Bogalusa Bayou Railroad (BBAY)". Watco. Retrieved 2021-05-01.
  25. ^ "Birmingham Southern railway acquired". www.bizjournals.com. December 2, 2012. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  26. ^ "Decatur & Eastern Illinois makes debut". Trains Magazine. September 10, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  27. ^ "Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. ^ "Watco Holdings, Inc.-Continuance in Control Exemption-Dutchtown Southern Railroad, L.L.C." Federal Register. 2020-12-23. Retrieved 2021-05-01.
  29. ^ "Dutchtown Southern Railroad". Watco. Retrieved 2021-05-01.
  30. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34045, June 12, 2001
  31. ^ "Ithaca Central Railroad (ITHR)". Watco Companies. 2018. Retrieved 2018-12-13. Ithaca Central Railroad (ITHR) begins operations on December 8, 2018. Watco leases the railroad from the Norfolk Southern Railway. The ITHR consists of 48.8 miles of track running north from Sayre, Pennsylvania, to Ludlowville, New York
  32. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 35188, November 17, 2008
  33. ^ Railroad Retirement Board, Employer Status Determination: Great Northwest Railroad, Inc., July 9, 2004
  34. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34475, March 19, 2004
  35. ^ "Kanawha River Railroad (KNWA)".
  36. ^ Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad Archived 2008-12-24 at the Wayback Machine, accessed December 2008
  37. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34042, June 12, 2001
  38. ^ Kaw River Railroad Archived 2012-08-12 at the Wayback Machine, accessed December 2008
  39. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34510, June 24, 2004
  40. ^ Louisiana Southern Railroad, accessed December 2008
  41. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34752, October 7, 2005
  42. ^ Mission Mountain Railroad, accessed December 2008
  43. ^ OpenDocument STB Finance Docket No. 34635, January 19, 2005
  44. ^ Mississippi Southern Railroad, accessed December 2008
  45. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34683, April 21, 2005
  46. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 35174, October 3, 2008
  47. ^ "Home". Port of Columbia. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  48. ^ Pennsylvania Southwestern Railroad, accessed December 2008
  49. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34329, April 24, 2003
  50. ^ a b "Short Line Railroads". www.up.com.
  51. ^ https://webarchive.loc.gov/all/20111211175203/http://www.wyomingbusinessreport.com/article.asp?id%3D61077
  52. ^ "Timber Rock Railroad (TIBR)". Watco. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  53. ^ Vicksburg Southern Railroad, accessed December 2008
  54. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34766, January 13, 2006
  55. ^ "Wisconsin & Southern Railroad being purchased by Kansas company". www.jsonline.com.
  56. ^ Yellowstone Valley Railroad, accessed December 2008
  57. ^ STB Finance Docket No. 34736, September 1, 2005

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