"Short line and regional railroads are a critical part of any economic recovery," says Railway Age Publisher Jonathan Chalon. "The business opportunities and obstacles may differ, but the entrepreneurial spirit of the two winners affects and assists their customers large and small, making efficient business possible with the most efficient surface mode—rail."
Burlington, Vt.-based Vermont Railway (VTR), part of Vermont Rail System, serves its namesake state and a portion of New York. But variable weather in 2011 pressed the railroad to the limits, as VTR endured very heavy snows during the winter, then resulting floods and washouts in the spring. Not yet content with its obstacle course, Mother Nature visited Tropical Storm Irene upon Vermont late last August, causing unprecedented washouts and damage to VTR bridges and right-of-way.
By arranging detours and transloads for customer freight, Vermont Railway kept customer traffic moving, while its rail infrastructure was largely and rapidly repaired within just three weeks. The short line's efforts extended beyond one mode: In conjunction with New England Central Railroad, Vermont Railways helped repair a key state roadway by moving 130,000 tons of rock during a 10-week period.
Amidst that effort, and with the state's Agency of Transportation, Vermont Railway's operations and maintenance-of-way forces successfully implemented a plan to better Amtrak's Ethan Allen service on the railroad's right-of-way, with the train notching a dramatic improvement in on-time performance in 2011.
"Short lines such as Vermont Railways offer tangible proof that the American work ethic is alive and well," says Railway Age Managing Editor Douglas John Bowen. That certainly includes sound and profitable business practices, but Vermont Railway also stands as testament to the idea of shared, proactive community involvement, in good times and in difficult moments—and Vermont certainly had its share of the latter in 2011."
Indianapolis, Ind.-based Indiana Railroad marked its 25th anniversary in 2011 by setting several records related to operating performance. It also invested a record $22 million in private capital for infrastructure and technology improvements, and received accolades for its employee wellness program, instituted in conjunction with Union Hospital of Terre Haute, Ind.
"The Indiana Rail Road has proven it is an industry leader in numerous categories, such as capital investment, technology, and marketing," says Railway Age Editor William C. Vantuono. "But frankly, it was the letters of recommendation from INRD's customers that made it clear to us that Indiana Rail Road was deserving of this honor."
Both Vermont Railway, the Short Line Railroad of the Year, and the Indiana Rail Road, the Regional Railroad of the Year, will be featured in Railway Age's April 2012 issue.
Railway Age is the transportation industry's oldest trade magazine, and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2006. The monthly magazine is circulated at the management levels of North American freight and passenger railroads. Emphasis is placed on technology, operations, strategic planning, marketing, and other issues such as legislative and labor/management developments of interest to railway management, railway suppliers, and consultants.