Today, Washington state remains an important artery for railroads with the busy Port of Seattle importing a great deal of our country's goods from Asia. However, historically the state has held a much greater role for the industry as it once was home to nearly twice the amount of rails and a major, Class I railroad that no longer exists. If you are interested in Washington railroad jobs the state is currently home to Class Is BNSF Railway and Union Pacific, which make up about two-thirds of the state's trackage. The rest is operated by a little over a dozen Class III, shortlines (Class II, regional Montana Rail Link owns about 17 miles of track in the state). Today, Washington's originated freight is quite diversified from lumber and waste to agricultural products and pulp/paper.
Life as a railroader can be a pretty overwhelming job as, particularly in the field of transportation, it requires one to be on call virtually all of the time (consider weekends as part of the regular work week). Because of this not everyone can handle such a career, which demands one to be away from home and family for such long periods of time. However, Class I railroads offer exceptional pay, retirement, and benefits which is why so many both enter the industry and make a career of it.
Of note, if you are able, landing a job with a smaller railroad would allow for more predictable hours although openings with these companies are usually pretty scarce. In any event, you don't have to enter the transportation field if you want to work for the railroad as there are numerous job titles available with the large companies. Finally, for those in college looking for internship work, especially if you are looking at a career in business/management be sure and check out the Class Is' career pages, many offer such programs during the summer.
Montana Rail Link: Montana Rail Link began operations in 1987 over Northern Pacific trackage sold by Burlington Northern. Today, it operates more than 900 miles of railroad between Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington. Please visit MRL's website regarding career information.
Ballard Terminal Railroad: This terminal railroad serves a few industries along the waterfront of Seattle, operating three miles of track near Salmon Bay. To contact the company; 4725 Ballard Avenue Northwest, Seattle, Washington 98107.
Cascade & Columbia River Railroad: The C&CR is one of Genesee & Wyoming's vast family of short lines operating close to 100 miles of track between Oroville and Rocky Reach where it connects with BNSF.
Central Washington Railroad: This short line operates about 80 miles of unconnected track between Yakima and Gibbon. The railroad is currently owned and operated by the Columbia Basin Railroad.
Columbia Basin Railroad: Another railroad owned by Temple, the Columbia Basin Railroad operates about 73 miles of track between Connell and Moses Lake with branches serving Othello, Schrag, and Warden. Please visit the company website for job information.
Columbia & Cowlitz Railway: This historic railroad dates back to the 1920s and operates 31 miles of track in conjunction with sister road Patriot Woods Railroad. The C&C is currently owned by Patriot Rail.
Great Northwest Railroad: This short line is owned by the Watco Companies and operates 77 miles of track between Lewiston, Idaho and Riparia, Washington. The railroad currently has interchanges with both UP and BNSF.
Kettle Falls International Railway: The Kettle Falls International Railway is an OmniTRAX-owned shortline, operating 160 miles of track between Chewelah and extreme southern Canada at Columbia Gardens and Grand Forks, British Colubmia.
Meeker Southern Railroad: This short line is owned by the Ballard Terminal Railroad operating five miles of track between Puyallup to McMillin. For contact information: 4725 Ballard Avenue, NW Seattle, Washington 98107.
Mount Vernon Terminal Railway: This terminal line operates the former trackage of the Pacific Northwest Traction Company, an interurban serving the town of Mt. Vernon. The current short line serves a few industries located in the town. To contact them; 615 North 16th, Mount Vernon, Washington 98273.
Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad: The Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad is another Watco shortline operating over 200 miles of unconnected rails in western Idaho, southeastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon.
Pend Oreille Valley Railroad: Owned by the Port Pend Oreille this short line operates abandoned Milwaukee Road trackage between Metaline Falls and Newport, Washington, which also stretches into northwest Idaho. Visit their website for job information.
Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad: The PS&P is owned by Genesee & Wyoming operating more than 100 miles of track west and south of Olympia. The railroad began operations in 1997 taking over the property from BNSF.
Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway: Previously known as the Washington & Idaho Railway the short line began operations in 2006 utilizing the former Northern Pacific between Spokane, Washington and Moscow/Harvard, Idaho. In 2019 a new operator took over the property, the Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway.
Tacoma Rail: This short line is owned by the city of Tacoma and currently operates three different divisions. It has been in operation since 1914, then known as the Tacoma Municipal Belt Line, to serve the city's waterfront; this section is now known as the Tidelands Division. In 1998 the railroad expanded by acquiring former Milwaukee Road trackage south of the city, which totals 132 miles and is known as the Mountain Division. Finally, there was the 2004 addition, known as the Capital Division, running southwest of Tacoma and reaching Port Tacoma. In all, Tacoma Rail operates 204 miles and handles a wide variety of freight. Visit the Tacoma Public Utilities' web page highlighting the railroad for contact information.
Tri-City & Olympia Railroad: The TC&O dates back to 2000 and operates about 18 miles of track between Hanford and Richland Junction where it has a connection to UP. Additionally, the railroad serves the Port of Olympia. Visit their website for job information.
Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad: This terminal railroad began operations in 2004 as Western Rail Switching. The Eastern Washington Gateway took over operations in 2009 running from a connection with BNSF at Cheney (with trackage rights to Ritzville) to Coulee City. Visit their website for job information.