The Thoroughbred Shortline Program was a system of shortline creation devised by Norfolk Southern in the late 1980s. It involved an alternative to the typical practice of a Class I railroad selling rail lines outright to shortlines in the post-Staggers Act era. Defining features of the program included leasing lines to shortline operators as opposed to outright sales, keeping stations available in Norfolk Southern marketing campaigns, and crediting carloads delivered to Norfolk Southern towards the lease and eventual purchase of the line. The program ran from 1988 to 1991, creating more than a dozen new shortline railroads, nearly all of which are still in operation today.
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.
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 Staggers Rail Act of 1980 is a United States federal law that deregulated the American railroad industry to a significant extent, and it replaced the regulatory structure that had existed since the 1887 Interstate Commerce Act.
The period following railroad deregulation under the provisions of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 spawned a plethora of railroad rationalization programs. In addition to outright abandonment of low density routes many of the more promising lines were sold to shortline operators.A reoccurring problem was that many of these new railroads were often so overburdened by the costs of purchasing the infrastructure they operated on that they lacked the capital to expand their customer base and improve their railroads.
Norfolk Southern explored the creation of its own rationalization program in 1987 with the goal of reorganizing 2,700 miles (4,300 km) of low density lines spread throughout their 27,000 miles (43,000 km) of track. 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of track were abandoned outright, with the remaining tracks slated to be distributed to shortlines. The result was the creation of the Thoroughbred Shortline Program.
A key fixture of the Thoroughbred Shortline Program included leasing, as opposed to selling, railroads to shortline operators. This spared the new startups from expensive costs of taking out loans for mortgage payments on the railroads. The second component of the program involved crediting carloads delivered to Norfolk Southern by the shortlines towards the lease. So long as the shortline could maintain the same annual carloads on the line as Norfolk Southern they owed no payments towards the lease. This also kept traffic directed on Norfolk Southern interchange points as opposed to competitors lines. Leases under the program spanned between 3 and 20 years, after which the shortlines had the option of purchasing the railroad outright.
The Aberdeen, Carolina and Western Railway is a short-line railroad running from Aberdeen to Star, North Carolina. It was incorporated in 1987 and operates on a former Norfolk Southern Railway branch line. It also leases track from Norfolk Southern between Charlotte and Gulf, North Carolina. It serves approximately 18 industries, mainly dealing in forest and agricultural products.
Carolina Coastal Railway is a shortline railroad that operates several lines in North Carolina and one line in South Carolina.
Central Railroad of Indianapolis is a Class III short-line railroad that operates approximately 39 miles (63 km) miles of rail line in north central Indiana.
The Georgia and Florida Railway is a short line railroad operating in Georgia and Florida, and is a subsidiary of OmniTRAX. The railroad spans 297 miles (478 km) over numerous different rail lines, most of which radiate out of Albany, Georgia.
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 Virginia Southern Railroad is a shortline railroad division of the North Carolina and Virginia Railroad, a subsidiary of the Genesee & Wyoming, with rights to operate 78 miles (126 km) of track between Norfolk Southern Railway connections at Oxford, North Carolina and Burkeville, Virginia. The southernmost segment between Clarksville, Virginia and Oxford is out of service.
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 Great Walton Railroad is a class III railroad that operates 10 miles (16 km) of track in Georgia. In addition to its own line between Monroe and Social Circle, Georgia, the railroad operates the Athens Line, LLC and the Hartwell Railroad.
The Heart of Georgia Railroad is a shortline railroad created in 1999 to lease and operate 177 miles (285 km) of track owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation between Mahrt, Alabama and Vidalia, Georgia, in the United States. The railroad has since expanded to include more than 219 miles (352 km) of track, reaching as far as Midville, Georgia. Initially only the portion from Rochelle to Preston, Georgia was utilized, with the Preston-Mahrt and Rochelle-Vidalia lines out of service. The Heart of Georgia also hosts the SAM passenger excursion train and is owned by parent company Atlantic Western Transportation Company.
The Indiana Northeastern Railroad is a Class III short line freight railroad operating on nearly 130 miles (210 km) in southern lower Michigan, northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. The Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company began operations in December 1992 and is an independent privately owned company. As of 2017 the railroad hauled more than 7,000 carloads per year. Commodities moved by the railroad include corn, soybeans, wheat and flour. It also handles plastics, fiberboard, aluminum, copper, coal, perlite, stone, lumber, glass, rendering products, as well as agricultural fertilizers and chemicals.
The Carolina Piedmont Railroad is a class III railroad and subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. operating in the Upstate region of South Carolina. From an interchange with CSX Transportation at Laurens the railroad runs 34 miles (55 km) to the northwest, terminating at East Greenville.
The Yadkin Valley Railroad is the trade name of the Piedmont and Atlantic Railroad and is a shortline railroad operating two lines leased from the Norfolk Southern Railway originating out of Rural Hall, North Carolina for a distance of 93 miles (150 km). The railroad began operation in 1989 and is currently a subsidiary of Gulf and Ohio Railways.
Gulf & Ohio Railways is a holding company for four different short-line railroads in the Southern United States, as well as a tourist-oriented passenger train, and locomotive leasing and repair service through Knoxville Locomotive Works. Gulf & Ohio maintains its corporate headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Gulf and Mississippi Railroad was the first regional railroad in the United States upon its creation in 1985. With over 713 miles (1,147 km) of track in the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama it was among the largest spin-off railroads in the post-Staggers Act era. MidSouth Rail acquired the entire G&M railroad in 1988, operating it as a separate entity, SouthRail. Kansas City Southern purchased MidSouth Rail in 1994 and most of the former G&M lines are still in service under KCS.
The Greenville and Northern Railroad was a shortline railroad formerly operating between Travelers Rest and Greenville, South Carolina, 11.3 miles (18.2 km). The railroad was part of the Pinsly Railroad Company after 1957 before being purchased by RailTex in 1997. Operations ended in February 1998 and the railroad was abandoned in 2005.
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 Carolina & Northwestern Railway (Ca&NW) was a railroad that served South Carolina and North Carolina from 1897 until January 1, 1974. The original line was operated by the Ca&NW as a separate railroad controlled by the Southern Railway until 1974 when the name was changed to the Norfolk Southern Railway. On June 1, 1982, Southern Railway and Norfolk and Western Railroad merged to form Norfolk Southern Railway. Choosing to use the name 'Norfolk Southern Railway' for the merger, in 1981, the original Ca&NW line along with original Norfolk Southern Railway was renamed Carolina and Northwestern once again. In the early 1950s several shortline subsidiaries of the Southern Railway were leased to the Ca&NW for operation, with these lines remaining a part of the Ca&NW into the 1980s.
The Thermal Belt Railway 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.
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.
The Delmarva Central Railroad is an American short-line railroad owned by Carload Express that operates 188 miles (303 km) of track on the Delmarva Peninsula in the states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The railroad operates lines from Porter, Delaware to Hallwood, Virginia and from Harrington, Delaware to Frankford, Delaware along with several smaller branches. The DCR interchanges with the Norfolk Southern Railway and the Maryland and Delaware Railroad. The railroad was created in 2016 to take over the Norfolk Southern Railway lines on the Delmarva Peninsula.