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|Dates of operation||1983–|
|Length||4,500 track miles|
Watco Companies, L.L.C. (Watco) is a transportation company based in Pittsburg, Kansas, formed in 1983 by Charles R. Webb. Watco is composed of four divisions: transportation, mechanical, terminal and port services, and compliance. Watco is the owner of Watco Transportation Services, L.L.C. (WTS), which operates 41 short line railroads in the U.S. and Australia. It is one of the largest short line railroad companies in the United States. As of December 2018, it operated on 5,500 miles (8,900 km) of leased and owned track. Also under transportation is the contract switching the company provides service for 30 customers. That is the service that Watco originally offered before it branched out into other areas.
Watco's mechanical division has 19 car repair shops and is one of the largest mechanical services provider in the United States. They provide program, contract and emergency repairs. These services include maintenance of all types of cars including tank cars and coal fleets, and the preparation and cleaning of boxcars and refrigerated cars.
The terminal and port services division operates ten warehouses throughout the country. They also operate several transloading facilities and specialize in loading and unloading railcars and moving commodities to their next destination.
Watco also operates two port services in the Gulf Region. Greens Port Terminal on the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County, Texas and Port Birmingham Terminal on the Black Warrior River in Alabama both provide access to the Gulf of Mexico.
Watco's newest division, Watco Supply Chain Services, provides supply chain logistics for highway, intermodal, rail, and international logistics.
Watco Companies was started in 1983 by Charles R. "Dick" Webb. The first operation was an industrial switching operation in DeRidder, Louisiana, that is still in existence. Webb then started his first mechanical operation, a railcar repair shop in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1985.
The Coffeyville mechanical shop was held captive to the major rail lines, and during discussions with the Union Pacific the opportunity arose to purchase the line running from Nevada, Missouri, to Coffeyville. This was the Union Pacific's first short line sale. Watco then looked to the West Region, acquiring the Blue Mountain Railroad in 1998, the Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad in 1992 and the Eastern Idaho Railroad in 1993.
In 1998, they began operating the Stillwater Central Railroad in Oklahoma and the Timber Rock Railroad in Texas. The Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad was acquired in 2001 and the Pennsylvania Southwestern Railroad in 2003. In 2004, they started operations of the Great Northwest Railroad in Washington, the Kaw River in Kansas and Missouri, and the Mission Mountain Railroad in Montana. In 2005 they began operating the Alabama Southern Railroad, the Louisiana Southern Railroad, the Mississippi Southern Railroad, and the Yellowstone Valley Railroad in Montana. The Austin Western Railroad was started in 2007 and shares rail with passenger rail. They also acquired Millennium Rail, Inc., a mechanical service company in 2007. The Baton Rouge Southern and the Pacific Sun Railroad were started in 2008, and they also acquired the mechanical services company Fitzgerald Railcar Services, Inc., and Reload, Inc., a 25-year experienced transloading business. The Grand Elk Railroad began operations in 2009.
In December 2010 Watco entered the Australian rail haulage market when it was awarded a 10-year contract to operate grain services for the CBH Group of Western Australia. Operations commenced in March 2012. In late 2016 Watco Australia was awarded an infrastructure train contract with Brookfield Rail operating ballast and rail work trains.
On December 15, 2010, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. NYSE: KMP announced an agreement whereby Kinder Morgan will invest up to $150 million over the next year in Watco Companies in exchange for a preferred equity position in the company. Kinder Morgan made an initial $50 million preferred shares investment on January 3, 2011. Additional $50 million equity investment completed in December 2011. Kinder Morgan will receive 3.25% quarterly distribution on the equity investment. Kinder Morgan is a leading pipeline transportation and energy storage company in North America. The transaction provides capital to Watco for further expansion of specific projects and offers Kinder Morgan the opportunity to share in the subsequent growth.
On December 28, 2011 Watco began operations of the Swan Ranch Railroad (SRRR) in the Swan Ranch Industrial Park in Cheyenne, Wyoming. On January 1, 2012, Watco gained majority ownership of the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad, a regional railroad in Wisconsin, and on February 1, 2012 took over operations of the Birmingham Southern Railroad.
On June 4, 2014, Watco and The Greenbrier Companies, Inc NYSE: GBX announced that they will create an equally owned joint venture, GBW Railcar Services, LLC, providing the railcar repair services. This joint venture was dissolved in August 2018.
|Railroad||Began operations||Track length (mi.)||Commodities||Facts|
|Alabama Southern Railroad (ABS)||November 2005||85 ||iron and steel, paper products, aggregates||Acquired through lease agreement with KCS|
|Alabama Warrior Railway (ABWR)||August 2009||15 ||coal, aggregates, pipe, scrap steel, cement||Started as Marylee Railroad in 1895|
|Ann Arbor Railroad (AA)||January 2013||50 ||automotive materials||Purchased from Ann Arbor Acquisition Corp, services mostly Chrysler plant producing Jeep Cherokees|
|Arkansas Southern Railroad (ARS)||October 2005||62 ||corn and soybean products||Two branches, 32-mile northern branch and a 30-mile southern branch|
|Austin Western Railroad (AWRR)||October 2007||155 ||aggregates, crushed limestone, calcium bicarbonate, lumber beer, chemicals, plastic, paper||Began sharing the railway with commuter operations in 2010 with Austin, TX|
|Autauga Northern Railroad (AUT)||April 2011||44 ||paper products and aggregates||Third shortline Watco acquired in Alabama|
|Baton Rouge Southern Railroad (BRS)||November 2008||1.5||chemicals, bauxite, plastic pellets, raw coke, calcinated coke||Provides car storage and use by local chemical companies|
|Bogalusa Bayou Railroad (BBAY)||2015||xxx||paper||Serves Bogalusa's International Paper|
|Birmingham Terminal Railway (BHRR)||February 2012||75.9 ||iron ore, coal, steel sheets and pipe||The dragon in the logo represents the fire that is used to smelt steel|
|Blue Ridge Southern Railroad (BLU)||July 2014||93||woodchips, chemicals, paper, cement||Former Norfolk Southern T-Line (Murphy Branch), W-Line, and TR-line. Based in Canton, NC.|
|Boise Valley Railroad (BVRR)||November 2009||36||frozen vegetables, lumber, fertilizer, fuels||Shares customers with the YSVR and EIRR|
|Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad (DREI)||September 2018||127||Operates on ex-CSX Transportation trackage acquired in 2018|
|Eastern Idaho Railroad (EIRR)||1993||270||corn, sugar, wheat, frozen vegetables, coal||Largest Union Pacific sale|
|Ithaca Central Railroad (ITHR)||December 8, 2018||48,8||salt, coal, plastics, magnesium chloride||Leased from Norfolk Southern|
|Grand Elk Railroad (GDLK)||March 2009||151||lumber products, corn, steel||Interchanges with 3 Class I railroads|
|Great Northwest Railroad (GRNW)||March 2004||77 ||lumber, products, fertilizers, aggregates||Competition to reach Lewiston while the line was being built was called the "Clearwater River Railroad Wars"|
|Kanawha River Railroad (KNWA)||July 2016||309 ||Chemicals, Aggregates, Agricultural Products||Second railroad to be acquired by Watco, LLC in the state of West Virginia. Appalachian & Ohio was briefly operated by Watco Transportation Services LLC. Operates on former Norfolk Southern tracks in Ohio and West Virginia.|
|Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (KO)||July 2001||820 ||wheat, grain products, chemicals, soybean products||Has state and federal shipping agreements|
|Kansas City Terminal Railway (KCT)||xxx||xxx||Transfer service and scrap hauler||Kansas City area|
|Kaw River Railroad (KAW)||June 2004||43 ||iron and steel, corn starch, lumber products, aggregates, plastics, industrial products||Expansions in 2005, 2006, and 2007|
|Louisiana Southern Railroad (LAS)||September 2005||167 ||paper products, aggregates, oils||Interchanges at Gibsland, Sibley, and Pineville|
|Mission Mountain Railroad (MMT)||December 2004||40 ||lumber, wheat||Originally part of the Haskell Pass, built in 1904|
|Mississippi Southern Railroad (MSR)||April 2005||28||corn and soybeans||Interchanges with KCS at Newton|
|Pacific Sun Railroad (PSRR)||October 2008||62||corn, soy, lumber, plastic pellets, beer, paints, recyclables||Crews accommodate the schedules of BNSF, coaster, Amtrak and Metro link passenger trains|
|Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad (PCC)||1992||202 ||wheat, frozen vegetables||$25 million in state-sponsored track rehabilitation backed by 100-year lease|
|Pennsylvania Southwestern Railroad (PSWR)||April 2003||12||steel scrap, steel products||First Watco operation to service a steel mill|
|Pecos Valley Southern Railway (PVSR)||2012||19||sand, gravel, crude oil||Formerly operated by Capitol Aggregates|
|San Antonio Central Railway (SAC)||2012||xxx||xxx||Operates within Port San Antonio's East Kelly Railport at night|
|South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL)||March 1987||380 ||grains, cement, coal, fertilizer, aggregates, steel, sand||Operates out of the historic Cherryvale Depot|
|Stillwater Central Railroad (SLWC)||1998||279 ||crude oil, sand, gypsum, cement, stone, steel||Higher than industry average rating of customer service and personal attention|
|Swan Ranch Railroad (SRRR)||December 2011||3.25 ||asphalt||When finished, the Swan Ranch Industrial Park will encompass 7,200 acres|
|Timber Rock Railroad (TIBR)||1998||168 ||aggregates, lumber products, plastics, fuel||Additions in 2002 and 2004; services the founding operation site in DeRidder, LA|
|Vicksburg Southern Railroad (VSOR)||January 2006||21||lumber, steel||Formerly known as the Redwood Branch|
|Watco Australia||May 2012||NA - operator only||grain||First international operation of Watco|
|Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. (WSOR)||January 2012||700 ||lumber, coal, liquid and dry fertilizers, corn, beans, plastic, aggregates, ethanol, liquid petroleum||Wisconsin's second-largest railroad|
|Yellowstone Valley Railroad (YSVR)||August 2005||172 ||grains, plastics, ethanol, crude oil, sand||Awarded BNSF Shortline Achievement Award for development of Customers in 2009|
Ithaca Central Railroad (ITHR) begins operations on December 8, 2018. Watco leases the railroad from the Norfolk Southern Railway. The ITHR consists of 48.8 miles of track running north from Sayre, Pennsylvania, to Ludlowville, New York