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This study aims to fill in the gap for short-line research, while maximizing accuracy of results by utilizing Association of American Railroad's Profiles database combined with American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association' Annual Data Profile. More specifically, the study: (1) attempts to quantify the importance of local and regional railroads to the U.S. rural and agricultural economy and (2) examines factors affecting short-line viability and future prospects for a viable short-line network in the future. In 2000, short lines participated in nearly 30 percent (9.9 million carloads) of all rail movements. Thousands of customers are served by these railroads. It was estimated that more than 3,000 food product customers were served, more than 2,000 lumber and farm product customers, and more than 1,000 chemical and waste scrap customers utilized the services of short-line railroads. This report identifies several factors critical to the success of short line rail roads. Success was measured and analyzed by looking at variables related to traffic volume, backhaul traffic, reliance on industries and/or commodities, number of shippers, flexibility of labor, track conditions, management, and transportation competition.


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