Since 1994, the lower operating costs of larger railcars (C-114 covered hopper cars) for the shipment of grain have encouraged their increased use. Most of these cost savings have accrued to the major railroads, but some of the savings have been passed on to shippers. As their use has increased, the amount of grain shipped by smaller railcars (C-113 covered hopper cars) has decreased. This shift has prompted changes in the dynamics of railroad economics, including the need for track and bridge upgrades in order to handle the heavier cars and the costs associated with those upgrades. Short-line and regional railroads are at a disadvantage compared to major railroads because they have fewer financial resources available for rail line upgrading. Nevertheless, they have been systematically upgrading their track for the movement of C-114 hopper cars. Some researchers have indicated that State subsidies to assist in upgrading rail branch lines could be used to bring more of the savings from larger cars to more farmers and to reduce maintenance costs on rural roads caused by farmers trucking grain to main-line elevators.


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