Railroad Vocabulary: A Class Act for America’s Railroad Systems. #1.

Class 1 freights are the most likely type you will see in the Chicagoland area.

America’s railroad system is complex, from the hundreds of companies down to the estimated 200,000 grade crossings. As railfans/ railroad enthusiasts, we should know as much as we can learn about this vital part of our economy, and learning about the classes of railroad is a great place to begin.

I. Class 1 Railroads have operating budgets and revenues in the many millions or billions of dollars annually. There are seven with trackage in the United States and Canada, and they are BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Grand Trunk Corporation, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern Combined Railroad Subsidiaries, Soo Line Railroad, and Union Pacific Railroad. They have operating revenues of $433.2 million or more. Via Rail is located in Canada and Ferromex has trackage in Mexico.

II. Class 2 Railroads are classified as Regionals. These according to an article posted this year at American-Rails.com statistics have operating revenues of more than $36.633 million but less than $457.913 million.

III. Class 3 Railroads are classified as Short Line Railroads. These have $36.6 million or less in operating revenue.


  1. The Purdue OWL Family of Sites. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, 2020, owl.english.purdue.edu/owl. Accessed 06 March 2020.
  2. “Class 1 Railroads.” Trains. Kalmbach Media. 01 June 2006. https://trn.trains.com/railroads/2006/06/class-1-railroads. 06 March 2020.
  3. Wikipedia contributors. “Railroad classes.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 29 Feb. 2020. Web. 7 Mar. 2020.
  4. United States Department of Transportation. Federal Railroad Administration. Freight Rail Overview. Washington, D.C.: Federal Railroad Administration Office of Communications, 2019.