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Washington Short Line Railroads

Published: April 22, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Ballard Terminal Railroad

(reporting mark, BDTL): This terminal railroad began service in 1997 reaching industries along the waterfront of Seattle.  When operations commenced it operate 3 miles near Ballard but has since expanded by acquiring two other branches in the region between Snohomish and Woodinville as well as from East Puyallup to McMillan.

Bountiful Grain & Craig Mountain Railroad

(reporting mark, BGCM):  The interestingly named Bountiful Grain & Craig Mountain is currently owned by Railroad Materials Salvage although it began operations in 1998 under Camas Prairie RailNet.  It operates the former Camas Prairie Railroad between Spalding and Cottonwood, about 52 miles, and handles primarily agricultural-related traffic.

Cascade & Columbia River Railroad

(reporting mark, CSCD): The C&CR is one of Genesee & Wyoming's vast family of short lines operating close to 100 miles of track between Oroville and Wenatchee over former Great Northern trackage.  The short line began service in 1996 as a RailAmerica property until acquired by G&W in 2012.  Its traffic consists of limestone and forest products.

Central Washington Railroad

(reporting mark, CWA): This short line operates about 80 miles of unconnected track between Yakima and Gibbon. The railroad is currently owned by Iron Horse Development, LLC (which also owns the Columbia Basin) and handles a wide variety of freight including cattle feed, propane, paper products, plastic pellets, cheese, juice concentrate, lumber, apples and other agricultural products.

Columbia & Cowlitz Railway

(reporting mark, CLC): This historic railroad dates back to 1925 and was a longtime division of Weyerhaeuser to handle forest products near Longview.  Today, the short line is owned by Patriot Rail operating more than 20 miles from Longview to Green Mountain, interchanging with both UP and BNSF.  

Its traffic currently consists of aggregates, chemicals, dimensional lumber, industrial products, newsprint, plastic resin, plywood chips, pulpboard, specialty packaging products, landfill trash.

Columbia Basin Railroad

(reporting mark, CBRW): Another Iron Horse property that has been in service since 1986 it currently operates about 73 miles of track between Connell (and an interchange with BNSF) and Moses Lake with branches serving Othello, Schrag, and Warden.  Much of this trackage is former Milwaukee Road property.  

The short line's traffic has been steadily growing over the years and currently consists of agricultural goods, inbound fertilizer, chemicals, and processed potatoes/vegetables.

Columbia Walla Walla Railroad

(reporting mark, CWW):  A division of Frontier Rail, this short line operates former Union Pacific/Oregon Short Line trackage from Wallula, Washington to Walla Walla with branches extending southward to Weston, Oregon and northward to Dayton, Washington.  Interchange is carried out with UP at Wallula.

Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad

(reporting mark, EWG): 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.  

There is also a short spur reaching Geiger Field Airway Heights.  The traffic is primarily agricultural related although company also performs other rail-related business such as rebuilds.

Great Northwest Railroad

(reporting mark, GRNW):  This Watco property (since 2004) operates 77 miles of the former Camas Prairie Railroad between Lewiston, Idaho and Riparia, Washington.  Its current traffic consists of lumber, bark, paper and tissue, agricultural products, industrial/farm chemicals, scrap iron and frozen vegetables. 

Kettle Falls International Railway

(reporting mark, KFR): The Kettle Falls International Railway is an OmniTRAX-owned short line, operating 160 miles of track between Chewelah and extreme southern Canada at Columbia Gardens and Grand Forks, British Columbia.  

The trackage is all former Great Northern property.  Its traffic consists of  lumber, plywood, wood products, minerals, metals, fertilizer, industrial chemicals, and abrasives.

Meeker Southern Railroad

(reporting mark, MSN): This short line is owned by the Ballard Terminal Railroad operating about 5 miles of track between East Puyallup to McMillin that was formerly owned by Northern Pacific. 

Mount Vernon Terminal Railway

(reporting mark, MVT): This terminal line operates the former trackage of the Pacific Northwest Traction Company, an interurban serving the town of Mt. Vernon.

Its history dates back to 1909 as the Seattle-Everett Traction Company, opening between those two cities (29 miles) on May 1, 1910.  Its  name was changed to the Pacific Northwest Traction Company in 1912 and completed an additional line from Mt. Vernon and Bellingham a year later. 

The plans to connect the two segments, unfortunately, never happened.  Despite developing a significant carload freight business the operation was slowly cutback over the years; most of the northern segment was abandoned in 1931 while the southern section survived until 1947.  Today, just 2.5 miles near Mt. Vernon remains in service.

Olympia & Belmore Railroad

(reporting mark, OYLO):  This short line, a Genesee & Wyoming property, began operations on March 16, 2016 acquiring 12 miles of what was previously operated by Tacoma Rail.  

The trackage is leased from BNSF Railway and runs southwesterly from Olympia to Belmore serving the Port of Olympia and an industrial park.  Freight traffic includes food products, plastics, and construction materials as well as bulk items for the port.

Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad

(reporting mark, PCC):  The PR&CC is a Watco property that operates 202 miles of disconnected lines in southeastern Washington, western Idaho, and northeastern Oregon.  All of the lines were acquired from Union Pacific.  Its traffic consists of wheat, lentils, and barley while moving about 4,000 carloads annually.

Pend Oreille Valley Railroad

(reporting mark, POVA):  This short line is owned by the Port of Pend Oreille (since 1984, and prior to that time, Kyle Railways) and operates the Milwaukee Road's former Metaline Falls Branch between Metaline Falls and Newport, Washington.  

It also currently leases from BNSF trackage between Newport, Washington and Dover, Idaho while interchanging with the Class I at nearby Sand Point, Idaho.

Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad

(reporting mark, PVJR):  This short line operates a former Northern Pacific branch from Chelatchie to Vancouver where it interchanges with Union Pacific/BNSF.  It provides freight service over the same corridor which hosts excursions as the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad.

Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad

(reporting mark, PSAP): The PS&P is owned by G&W operating 108 miles of track connecting Bremerton and Silverdale with Centralia and Hoquiam. The railroad began operations in 1997 taking over the property from BNSF that was originally Northern Pacific trackage.  

Then-owned by the ParkSierra Railgroup it was sold to RailAmerica in 2002 before RA was acquired by G&W in 2012.  Its traffic ranges from agricultural products to automobiles.

Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway

(reporting mark, SSP):  Previously known as the Washington & Idaho Railway this privately-owned short line began running in 2006.  In August, 2019 a new operator acquired the property, the Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway. 

The short line serves the area south of Spokane, Washington and stretches as far east as Harvard, Idaho with another short segment extending to Moscow.  The property (former Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific) is owned by the Washington Department of Transportation, which leases the corridor.  Its traffic consists of agriculture products, largely grain/wheat.

Tacoma Rail

(reporting marks, TMBL, TRMW):  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.

Tri-City & Olympia Railroad

(reporting mark, TCRY):  This short line began service in 2000 running from a connection with UP at Richland Junction to Hanford.  The TC&O also serves the Port of Olympia.  Its traffic consists of food products, metals, containers, and also provides locomotive repair services.

Washington & Idaho Railway

(reporting mark, WIR): The Washington Idaho Railway is a privately-owned short line that serves the area south of Spokane, Washington and stretches as far east as Harvard, Idaho with another short segment extending to Moscow.  

The property (former Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific) is owned by the Washington Department of Transportation, which leases the corridor to the Washington & Idaho.  Its traffic consists of agriculture products, largely grain/wheat.

Washington Eastern Railroad

(reporting mark, WER):  This short line began service in 2018 over what was formerly the Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad until 2018.  It operates 115 miles of the Northern Pacific's former Central Washington Branch between Cheney (where it interchanges with BNSF) and Coulee City. 

The line is owned by the state of Washington and its traffic primarily consists of grain with some other infrequent movements.