|Locale||Rutherford County, North Carolina|
|Dates of operation||1990–|
|Predecessor||Norfolk Southern, CSX Transportation|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Length||8.5 miles (13.7 km)|
|Headquarters||Morganton, North Carolina|
The Thermal Belt Railway (reporting marks TBRY) is a Class III shortline railroad that operates for freight service on an irregular schedule on a former CSX line from Bostic to Forest City and on a former Norfolk Southern line from Forest City to Alexander Mills, North Carolina. Total mileage is 8.5 miles (13.7 km). Connections are made with CSX at Bostic. Rail is 85 pounds.
In the United States, railroads are designated as Class I, II, or III, according to size criteria first established by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1911, and now governed by the Surface Transportation Board.
A shortline railroad is a small or mid-sized railroad company that operates over a relatively short distance relative to larger, national railroad networks. The term is used primarily in the United States and Canada. In the U.S., railroads are categorized by operating revenue, and most shortline railroads fall into the Class III or Class II categorization defined by the Surface Transportation Board. Shortlines generally exist for one of three reasons: to link two industries requiring rail freight together ; to interchange revenue traffic with other, usually larger, railroads; or to operate a tourist passenger train service. Often, short lines exist for all three of these reasons.
CSX Transportation is a Class I railroad operating in the eastern United States and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The railroad operates approximately 21,000 route miles (34,000 km) of track. The company operates as a subsidiary of CSX Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.
The former CSXT Bostic-Forest City line was originally built by the Central Carolina Railroad in 1886 as part of a route from Rutherfordton to Charlotte, North Carolina. The Central Carolina was later acquired by Seaboard Air Line. Through mergers, it later became part of CSX. The former Norfolk Southern Forest City-Alexander Mills line was built in 1887 by the Charleston, Cincinnati, and Chicago Railroad as part of a line from Marion, North Carolina to Kingville in South Carolina. The line was soon acquired by the Southern Railway, which merged into Norfolk Southern in 1982.
Rutherfordton is a town in Rutherford County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 4,213 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Rutherford County.
Charlotte is the most populous city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. Located in the Piedmont, it is the county seat of Mecklenburg County. In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population was 859,035, making it the 17th-most populous city in the United States. The Charlotte metropolitan area's population ranks 22nd in the U.S., and had a 2016 population of 2,474,314. The Charlotte metropolitan area is part of a sixteen-county market region or combined statistical area with a 2016 census-estimated population of 2,632,249.
The Charleston, Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad, informally known as the Triple C, was a Southeastern railroad that operated in the late 19th century.
By the early 1980s, both CSX and Norfolk Southern reached an agreement to allow the consolidation of trackage in both Rutherford and Cleveland counties. This would allow both companies to abandon duplicate lines, while granting trackage rights on former competitor routes. While this move helped with operating costs, traffic declined to the point that by late 1989, Norfolk Southern had pulled out of operating its remaining segment from Gilkey, through Forest City, to Alexander Mills. The Gilkey-Ruth segment of this line had already been embargoed due to lack of traffic as well as downed trees caused by Hurricane Hugo. At about this time, CSX was considering abandonment of its Bostic-Forest City line as well.
Rutherford County is a county located in the southwestern area of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 67,810. Its county seat is Rutherfordton.
Cleveland County is a county located in the western Piedmont and on the southern border of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 98,078. Its county seat is Shelby.
Ruth is a town in Rutherford County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 440 at the 2010 census.
A group of the railroad's online shippers formed the Rutherford Railroad Development Corporation, which acquired both the former CSX Bostic-Forest City line and Norfolk Southern's Gilkey-Alexander Mills line in early 1990 in order to preserve rail service. Total rail mileage acquired was 16 miles. The line was leased to Southeast Shortlines, Inc, which renamed the line the Thermal Belt Railway after the area's isothermal effect which, on certain cool nights, allowed the area mountains to be warmer in temperature on the slope than on the base. The line started operations on April 2, 1990. Traffic in its first few years consisted of inbound plastic pellets, grain and lumber and outbound pulpwood on the remaining open sections of track, while work started on clearing the downed trees on the embargoed section.However traffic on that segment never materialized, and after about 10 years of dormancy, the Gilkey-Spindale section was converted into a rail-trail with the provision that it could be reactivated if needed. The remaining trackage has seen a steady decline of traffic to the point that by late 2010, parts of the line was used for rail car storage.
Spindale is a town in Rutherford County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 4,321 at the 2010 census.
As of 2014 the only customer remaining on the line is a small transload operation near the CSX interchange. Included in the May 2014 North Carolina Freight Rail & Rail Crossing Safety Improvement Fund Projects budget is a $58,688 grant to construct more transloading tracks and expand this operation.
The Thermal Belt operates with two locomotives. Number 1 is an Electro-Motive Corporation SW model switcher repowered with a Cummins 600 horsepower engine block. The unit was originally built in July, 1938 for Missouri Pacific's subsidiary, Union Terminal Railway of St. Joseph, Missouri. It was then transferred to another Missouri Pacific subsidiary, St. Joseph Belt Railway, which served as their #5. When the St Joseph Belt was merged into the Missouri Pacific, the SW became their #6005.
Early Electro-Motive Corporation switchers were built with Winton 201-A engines. A total of 175 were built between February 1935 and January 1939. Two main series of locomotives were built, distinguished by engine size and output: the straight-8, 600 hp (450 kW) 'S' series, and the V12, 900 hp (670 kW) 'N' series. Both were offered with either one-piece cast underframes from General Steel Castings of Granite City, Illinois, denoted by 'C' after the power identifier, and fabricated, welded underframes built by EMC themselves, denoted by 'W'. This gave four model series: SC, SW, NC and NW. Further developments of the 900 hp (670 kW) models gave model numbers NC1, NC2, NW1, and NW1A, all of which were practically indistinguishable externally from the others, as well as a pair of unique NW4 models for the Missouri Pacific Railroad and a solitary, twin-engined T transfer locomotive model built for the Illinois Central Railroad.
A switcher or shunter is a small railroad locomotive intended not for moving trains over long distances but rather for assembling trains ready for a road locomotive to take over, disassembling a train that has been brought in, and generally moving railroad cars around – a process usually known as switching (USA) or shunting (UK). They do this in classification yards. Switchers may also make short transfer runs and even be the only motive power on branch lines and switching and terminal railroads. The term can also be used to describe the workers operating these engines or engaged in directing shunting operations.
Cummins is an American Fortune 500 corporation that designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration, and power generation products. Cummins also services engines and related equipment, including fuel systems, controls, air handling, filtration, emission control, electrical power generation systems, and semi trucks. Headquartered in Columbus, Indiana, United States, Cummins sells in approximately 190 countries and territories through a network of more than 600 company-owned and independent distributors and approximately 6,000 dealers. Cummins reported net income of $999 million on sales of $20.4 billion in 2017.
The locomotive was sold in the mid-1960s to Precision Engineering, which remanufactured (but not repowered) the SW. The unit was sold to the Pickens Railroad as their #3. Pickens kept the unit until the mid-1970s when it was sold to Birmingham Rail and Locomotive near Birmingham, Alabama. It was then acquired by Duke Power and sent to Chattahoochee Locomotive, near Cornelia, Georgia to be repowered with a Cummins engine block. It was assigned to construction duty at Duke's Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant. An economic downturn as well as new nuclear power regulations in the 1980s sidelined the plant, parking the SW locomotive for several years.
The unit was sold in 1989 to Don McGrady, which formed Southeastern Shortlines Inc as an operator for the Thermal Belt Railway and, later on, the Caldwell County Railroad.
The 4601 is of MPRX heritage and was sold to the Thermal Belt in late 2015.
The Norfolk Southern Railway is a Class I railroad in the United States. With headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, the company operates 21,500 route miles in 22 eastern states, the District of Columbia, and has rights in Canada over the Albany to Montréal route, and previously on CN from Buffalo to St. Thomas. NS is responsible for maintaining 26,300 miles, with the remainder being operated under trackage rights from other parties responsible for maintenance. The most common commodity hauled on the railway is coal from mines in Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The railway also offers the largest intermodal network in eastern North America.
The Georgia Southwestern Railroad is a Class III short line railroad company that operates over 234 miles (377 km) of track in southwestern Georgia and southeastern Alabama. Beginning in 1989 as a division of the South Carolina Central Railroad on a pair of former CSX Transportation lines, the railroad has since undergone a number of transformations through abandonments and acquisitions before arriving at its current form. The railroad was formerly a RailAmerica property before going independent, and in 2008 it was acquired by Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
The Yreka Western Railroad Company is a shortline railroad operating freight trains between the Union Pacific Railroad interchange at Montague and the City of Yreka, California. Railmark Holdings acquired the Yreka Western Railroad in 2017.
The Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad is a short-line railroad that operates 68 miles (109 km) of track from Chesapeake, Virginia to Edenton, North Carolina.
The Willamette Valley Railway is a short-line railroad that operates in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It leased a line from Woodburn to Stayton from the Southern Pacific Transportation Company in February 1993, as well as a branch from Geer west to Salem, and purchased the property in 1996. The company also leased a line between Albany and Mill City in 1993, but transferred the lease to the Albany and Eastern Railroad in October 2000.
The Wiregrass Central Railroad is a shortline railroad operating 19.5 miles (31.4 km) of track from a CSX Transportation connection at Waterford, near Newton, to Enterprise, Alabama via the south side of Fort Rucker. The company was initially a subsidiary of Gulf and Ohio Railways and began operations in 1987 following the purchase of the Enterprise Subdivision branch line of CSX Transportation.
The Rochester and Southern Railroad, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc., is a class III shortline that runs from the city of Rochester in Monroe County to Silver Springs, NY. The RSR started in 1986, when the B&O sold off its Buffalo and Rochester branches. The trackage was purchased by Genesee & Wyoming Inc., and split into two railroads, the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad and the Rochester and Southern Railroad. The Rochester branch was scrapped from Silver Springs south to Machias, New York.
The East Tennessee Railway is a short line railroad connecting CSX Transportation and the Norfolk Southern Railway in Johnson City, Tennessee. Since 2005, the railroad has been owned by Genesee and Wyoming, an international operator of short line railroads, as part of its Rail Link group. The railroad uses a single diesel locomotive, SW1200 #214, to serve a small number of industries and a transloading facility, as well as to provide interchange services between NS and CSX.
The Akron and Barberton Belt Railroad was a switching railroad that was built to serve various industries around the cities of Barberton and Akron in Ohio. The main purpose was to switch chemical cars for Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Babcox and Wilcox Companies as well as O.C. Barber's match works, all in Barberton. It was controlled by the Akron, Canton and Youngstown, Baltimore and Ohio, Pennsylvania and Erie railroads. It interchanged railroad cars with the Erie Railroad in Barberton, Pennsylvania RR in Barberton and Akron, Akron Canton & Youngstown at East Akron and Belt Junction west of Fairlawn and the Baltimore & Ohio RR in East Akron and Barberton. The railroad was always a freight-only carrier. The East Akron line ran south of Barberton before curving back north, passing through Kenmore, South Akron, East Akron and ending at the Akron Canton and Youngstown Railroad Brittian Yard in far Eastern Akron. The Fairlawn line ran due north from Barberton, connection with the Akron Canton and Youngstown Railroad at Belt Junction just west of Fairlawn. The three-track interchange yard at Belt Junction was out of service for many years during the 1920s and 1930s due to damage but was used by the Akron Canton and Youngstown Railroad to hold overflow cars from the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing plant just east of Copley. The interchange was restored around World War II.
Pickens Railway is a shortline railroad that has operated on two separate divisions in the Upstate Region of South Carolina:
The Central New York Railroad is a shortline railroad operating local freight service along ex-Southern Tier Line trackage in the U.S. states of New York and Pennsylvania. The line begins at Port Jervis, following the West Branch Delaware River to Deposit and the Susquehanna River from Lanesboro, where it crosses the Starrucca Viaduct, to Binghamton. It is a subsidiary of the Delaware Otsego Corporation, which also owns the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, operator of through trains over the line.
The East Penn Railroad is a short-line railroad that operates a number of mostly-unconnected lines in the U.S. states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Except for two industrial park switching operations, all are former Pennsylvania Railroad or Reading Company lines, abandoned or sold by Conrail or its predecessors.
The West Tennessee Railroad is a shortline railroad in the Southern U.S., connecting Corinth, Mississippi to Fulton, Kentucky via western Tennessee. The company began operating in 1984 on a portion of the former Mobile and Ohio Railroad (M&O) main line between Jackson and Kenton, Tennessee. It significantly expanded operations in 2001 through the lease, from the Norfolk Southern Railway, of the ex-M&O south to Corinth and a former main line of the Illinois Central Railroad (IC) north to Fulton, as well as a branch from Jackson to Poplar Corner. All of these lines were part of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad (ICG) prior to its 1980s program of spin-offs, during which Gibson County purchased the Jackson-Kenton line and the Southern Railway acquired the Corinth-Fulton line and Poplar Corner branch.
The following is a brief history of the North American rail system, mainly through major changes to Class I railroads, the largest class by operating revenue.
Lake State Railway is a railroad operating in the Saginaw Valley and northeastern quadrant of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The railroad moves large quantities of aggregate and limestone, as well as coal, grain, and chemical products. Some of the company's largest customers include Dow Chemical Company, S. C. Johnson & Son, Lafarge, ConAgra Foods, Archer Daniels Midland, Conrad Yelvington, and Consumers Energy.
The Ashland Railway is a Class III railroad shortline railroad operating within North Central Ohio and based in Mansfield, Ohio. Since its inception in 1986, Ashland Railway has grown to provide service 24 hours a day 7 days a week along 55 miles of track in two segments, to industries within Ashland, Huron, Richland and Wayne counties. ASRY interchanges with the Norfolk Southern Railway in Mansfield, the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway in Plymouth and CSX Transportation (CSXT) in Willard. The line runs southeast from Willard through Plymouth and Shelby, to Mansfield. From Mansfield the line runs northeast through Ashland and terminates in West Salem.
The Georgia Great Southern Railroad was a shortline railroad formerly operating between Dawson and Albany, Georgia, 24.2 miles (38.9 km). The railroad was partially abandoned in 1994. RailTex consolidated its holdings in the area into the Georgia Southwestern in 1995, and the Georgia Great Southern ceased to exist as a separate railroad.
The Abbeville–Grimes Railway Company, also known as the A&G Railroad after 1994, was a shortline railroad formerly operating from Grimes to Abbeville, Alabama, 26.9 miles (43.3 km). The railroad was merged with the Bay Line Railroad in 1996 and continued operation under the new name.
The Wabash Railroad was a Class I railroad that operated in the mid-central United States. It served a large area, including track in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri and the province of Ontario. Its primary connections included Chicago, Illinois; Kansas City, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; Buffalo, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; and Toledo, Ohio.
The Caldwell County Railroad is a Class III shortline railroad operating over 17 miles between Hickory and Lenoir, North Carolina. The CWCY is operated by Southeast Shortlines, Inc., which also operates the Thermal Belt Railway.