It is in the news today how the railroad industry is coming back. All the major American railroads did quite well during our hard times. Being environmentally friendly and extremely fuel efficient are not bad qualities to have, and these attributes describe modern railroading. Sure, owning BNSF Railway has made Warren Buffett a happy man, and major industries like coal, grain, chemicals, and import/export are benefitting (Although you would not know this if you listened to their trade associations) from a highly efficient, well-maintained, quality railroad infrastructure.
But what about small towns? I will take one example of a small city I recently visited- Abilene, Kansas. For background information, Union Pacific Railroad has spent many millions of dollars rebuilding their Kansas City-Denver line with 136 pound welded rail, new ballast, and ties. The line was rebuilt to handle part of the huge amount of coal traffic originating in Wyoming and travelling to the Midwest. Abilene is on this route, and with its agribusiness and grain silos in this rich agricultural region of Kansas rail is used to move the grain to market. With all that investment, grain trains on this route can travel at track speed, 60 miles per hour or greater, rather than the slow speeds that most branch and secondary routes are limited to. Result? A silo operator in Abilene benefits from a better maintained national rail system just like the giant trucking companies who ship rail, the major importers of products from Asia (And who isn’t?), or any other large concern that at some point depends on rail transportation. Sounds like good railroads are good for America. I think this fact is true.