• Romance of the shortline?

  • A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads
A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by justinking
I don't know what it is about them that makes me enjoy them so much. Maybe its because I grew up following the Maryland Midland from their 10 tonners to their F unites to the GP38s. I'm not sure why but shortlines are really what I like to railfan. Maybe its just the sometimes odd assortment of power or because I love watching a train switch industries. I don't know why. Does anyone else feel this way?

  by Aa3rt
I've been enamored with a number of shortlines. Some of my favorites include the Coudersport & Port Allegeny, Wellsville, Addison & Galeton and the Susquehanna & New York that all ran in northern Pennsylvania. Each line seems to have it's own "personality"-something the larger roads seem to be missing.

Since relocating to southern Maryland, I've discovered the long gone, little documented "Washington, Brandywine & Point Lookout" that, despite its grandiose name, only ever ran from Brandywine (Prince George's County) and a connection with the PRR, to Mechanicsville (St. Mary's County). After struggling along under different names, and owners, the line was finally taken over by the US Government during WWII, extended to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Lexington Park, only to finally to fall into disuse again in the 1960s when aviation fuel began being transported to the base by barge. The line was finally torn up during the early 1970's.

  by ACLfan
Yes, there is just a very special "something" about shortlines that make them different, and to stand out.

Even on an individual basis, each of the shortlines that I am familiar with have had a special trait, character, or "distinction" that made them truly a "one of a kind" operation.

Also, you could relate to them much more easier, as you could become very familiar with the entire operation, from one end to the other end of the whole railroad's operations.

As also mentioned, each shortline had some real peculiarities that distinguished it from any other railroad, whether it be the color scheme, the types of locomotives (both active and inactive), the customer base, the rolling stock that they owned, to such things as personal as the names of the employees (and sometimes their families), and the geography / topography traversed by the alignment of the rail line.

Summed up: Shortlines have distinctive character!
And, you can become very familiar with the entire operation, not just some subdivision or division.

Do I have a special feeling for shortlines? You betcha!

I have really hated to see them go down for the count, or to be swallowed up by some larger railroad, and lose all of their special character, sorta like a really unique-looking minnow being swallowed up by some big bass!
When you've seen one bass, you've seen them all!

  by Komachi
Why are we so enamored with shortlines? I think both Aa3rt and ACLfan have brought up some good points and I'll add my own observation to the mix.

Now, I'm not a real sports fan, but I think I can use the following analogy...

Class 1's are the "A squad," regionals are the "second string" and shortlines... well, they're the underdogs.

And most everyone likes to cheer for the underdog. Watching these small railroads running with the "big dogs" with limited resources is a fascinating thing to witness. So, I think that has an impact on our psyches when regarding shortline operations.

Just my thoughts on the subject.

  by Luther Brefo
It's the ability to do what they do, the way they do it.

Shortlines are like well oiled machines.

  by justinking
It's funny, just about two hours after i posted this I ended up at the Maryland midland yard in Union Bridge Maryland, A few of the employes comming off the UBEG (Union Bridge/emory Grove CSXT interchange) regonized me "your that kid thats always at the Westminster crossing". I can't do that with a class one. Its more personal to me that the MMIDs main yard is 10 minutes from my house and their center of operations is a house. I know everything about there line, even speed restrictions and why some of those restrictions are in place.

  by DMCenci
My faciniation with shortlines starts with the Huron and Eastern RR here in Michigan..climbing onto one of the GP38-2's in the "Pere Marquette" inspired paint (before the RA paint)back in 1998.
One thing is the older and sometime odd power shortlines have. For example..the Great Lakes Central here in Michigan (exTSBY) rosters 7 GP35's..all of which ride on alco trucks! Another one..the Lake State (exD&M) still rosters several former Detroit and Mackinaw Alco's (although the heard is thining). My favorite of the shortlines (the HESR) rosters 2 former MoPac/CMGN U23B's and a former CN/CMGN GP40-2LW! Add to those, 3 exBN B30-7AB's, several GP38's..throw in a couple of C30-7's and a vintage GP9..whats not to love!
Another neat thing..sometimes the physical plant on shortlines can be "frozen in time" if you will. Vintage switch stands..all sorts of old sidings (or the evidence there of), structure and depots...a perfect combination to give a history nut like me plenty of clues to research.
The friendly additude of the shortlines can help as well. Also the fact that shortlines run through a lot of smaller towns providing a vital service.
Plus shortlines are fun to chase..they typicaly go slower making phot opp's plentiful.
Dave C