Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2012

Capstone Advisor

Professor Julie Niederhoff

Honors Reader

Professor Minet Schindehutte

Capstone Major

Supply Chain Management

Capstone College


Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Business | Operations and Supply Chain Management


Short line railroads are vital links in the North American rail network. To remain profitable and viable they must keep abreast of technological advancement and increase cooperation both amongst themselves and with large railroads. Short line railroads fulfill a need in the market place: efficiently distributing and collecting freight transferred locally, nationally, and abroad. Their health and success are a vital component to the continued economic viability of industry in the American northeast. This paper examines short line railroading in the northeastern United States and its relevance and future in connecting industry to the North American Rail Network.

To determine a quality background of the short line railroad industry, extensive research was conducted using a variety of sources. The author’s long time enthusiasm for and knowledge of the railroad industry aided in having a substantial understanding from the beginning. Armed with a decade long accumulated knowledge base allowed for immediate immersion, and knowledge gathering from industry magazines, trade journals, textbooks, databases, websites, insider PowerPoint presentations, and personal interviews with short line railroad executives expanded this knowledge base. Industry executive interviews provided pivot points for continued research, guiding the author further. Research confirmed again and again the importance of short line railroads to industry in the northeastern United States. Faced with road congestion, increased costs, and degraded service levels from large railroads, industry needs short lines to provide access to the North American Rail Network. It also distinctly outlined the importance of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity among short line operators as methods to continued growth.

The short line railroad industry materially contributes to the economy of the northeastern United States. Preservation of active freight moving companies is important to industry, and ultimately the public. Growth of short line railroads creates increased competition with trucking companies and provides shippers, even ones not located along a railroad, with alternatives to moving freight. Increased freight transportation efficiencies are important for industry, especially if competitors move to right-to-work states, or overseas, where labor costs are generally lower. The short line railroad industry is substantial and worth studying in an effort to sustain and grow the success. This research provides a clear purpose for local, state, and government funding, private investment, and public support for the continued short line railroad activity in the American northeast.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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