With a Nation in Crisis, the Short Line Industry Delivers What is Needed

Freight railroads are a critical part of America’s supply chain, which is kept strong and healthy by the many front line workers making sure important goods arrive in the right place, at the right time. And the national short line and regional railroad industry is playing a crucial role in ensuring that supply chain never weakens or falters. We are 603 small business railroads, who provide the first and last mile, keeping goods and raw materials moving, from farm to factory, from factory to retail outlets, all across America.  In the midst of the #COVID-19 crisis, #shortlinesRfrontlines, so #thankarailroader!

Short Lines Ship the Goods Needed Across America

Short line and regional railroads are known by the “first and last mile” mantra. Short lines might be small pieces of the overall freight rail puzzle, but they bring everything together and complete the picture. During COVID-19, short lines are often the final link between suppliers and customers needing critical goods.

Many ASLRRA members have been active in moving the items most in demand during the COVID-19 crisis, including Finger Lakes Railroad in New York who ships pharmaceutical salt, the Lancaster and Chester Railroad in South Carolina ships isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol and sodium hydroxide, all of which are common ingredients in cleaning and personal hygiene products used by hospitals and other facilities, and hundreds more!

Below are some examples of Short Line Railroads performing day in and day out as Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers in the fight against COVID-19:



Indiana and Ohio Railway (IORY) plays a key role in meeting increased demand for hand sanitzer product across the region by closely supporting its manufacturing. IORY delivers inbound fatty and cyclic alcohols to the Procter & Gamble (P&G) production facility in Lima, Ohio. The two alcohols, which are main ingredients in most hand sanitizer formulas, are transported by rail from a Shell plant in New Orleans. During the pandemic, IORY has increased switches and expedited railcars to meet demand.

“IORY always does whatever they can to help P&G when we require urgent or special shipments,” says Tony Fries, inbound transportation leader for P&G’s North American transportation operations. “We appreciate the agility.”
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The New Orleans and Gulf Coast Railway (NOGC) has been working extra hours during the COVID-19 crisis to move grain for export and materials to chemicals plants and finished products from the plants. During this time of the COVID crisis, the Mississippi River water levels are up, making short line rail service essential to key Customers. The area the railway covers is also a hot-zone of the COVID-19 infections, which has a some NOGC employees in isolation, while the rest of the team works to balance work schedules along with the needs of families and childcare.

Portland & Western Railroad (PNWR) continues to play a vital role in supplying raw materials to the paper products sector at several customer manufacturing facilities in Oregon. PNWR carries inbound wood pulp to Georgia- Pacific mills in Wauna and Halsey, Oregon. The pulp is shipped by rail from Beaumont, Texas, and used at the Georgia-Pacific mills to make an immediate product for personal paper-product producers who finish, package and distribute such goods to the consumer market. PNWR also hauls inbound wood chips and outbound containerboard for the Georgia-Pacific plant in Toledo, Oregon.

These inputs have been key to supplying paper goods around the country during the pandemic.
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Columbus & Ohio River Rail Road (CUOH) supports two customers that produce essential products, including cleaners and disinfectants as well as pharmaceuticals and nutritional therapeutic. The Colgate-Palmolive plant in Cambridge, Ohio receives ethyl and fatty alcohols as well as cleaning compound shipping by rail from suppliers in Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey and Texas, with CUOH making the final delivery. Another customer, Abbott, produces various supplements, including infant formula and other nutritional supplements, at its Columbus, Ohio, laboratory. These products require oils transported by rail from a single supplier in California, with CUOH delivering the raw material shipments to Abbott.
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California Northern Railroad (CFNR) plays an important role in keeping store shelves and freezers stocked. California-produced food products, including beans, diced tomatoes, malt, olives, rice, sugar, and tomato paste and sauce, encompass the majority of commodities transported by the CFNR. One key customer, Morning Star Company is a behemoth in the tomato industry, not only as California’s number-one tomato processor but also accounting for 94 percent of the total U.S. output of processing tomatoes. “CFNR has been critically important to the success of our overall business,” says Morning Star’s Bob Henry, who works closely with CFNR. “We have a tremendous relationship with them, based on daily communication. What sets them apart from others is their willingness to be flexible with scheduling, and that’s key for us.”
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The Coos Bay Rail Line (CBRL) is owned and operated by the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay. The CBRL serves a tri-county region in southwestern Oregon, providing both intraline service and connectivity to the National Railway Network for our customers. Their crews are on the frontlines, working hard to move essential goods like raw logs, finished forest products, and organic dairy feed to destination markets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured is their locomotive “The 2020 Looking to the Future” hauling plywood and lumber.

Short Lines Take Care of People, but Not Only People

When thinking about the COVID-19 outbreak, many might assume that essential goods are those used by hospitals and medical workers, and that items not used for food, sanitation or health purposes are put on the back burner. But it’s not just humans who need nourishment and care, or extra help.
   Many of R. J. Corman’s lines work with customers producing key products, including rolled paper used in water cartons for FEMA; pulp paper for a company making medical protective wear; plastics for companies that make jugs and bottles for sprays and foods. and containers, bottles and some face shields for medical departments; laundry detergents to clean hospital gowns, bed linens and more; polyolefins for medical devices and pharmaceutical packaging. 


In Kentucky, R. J. Corman’s Central Kentucky Line serves customers whose products ensure the health of a different breed – the thoroughbred horses in the $6.5 billion-dollar equine industry that is an iconic part of the state’s image and history.

The Central Kentucky Line delivers specialty oats and grains to McCauley Brothers Feed, an equine-only nutrition company known for its premium feeds and nutritional supplements. It also transports hay from Standlee Hay Company in Idaho, bringing alfalfa, timothy grass, orchard grass, alfalfa/grass and orchard/alfalfa forage to horse farms relying on such goods for their animals’ health.