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Public Information > Resources: Rail-Line Sales

The STB has prepared an Information Bulletin providing general information on railroad sales called So You Want to Start a Small Railroad. It focuses primarily on those procedures that are most useful in helping potential and established short line railroads begin or expand operations. For each of the methods listed below, you will find what information must be provided, the form it must take and the various procedural deadlines in the booklet.

The first section of the Information Bulletin provides information on when or how to file the appropriate initial filings. The second part discusses Offers of Financial Assistance, the process whereby an applicant can purchase or subsidize a rail line that is slated for abandonment. Additional information on Offers of Financial Assistance is available in the STB's booklet, Overview: Abandonments and Alternatives to Abandonment. Finally, the third part of the Information Bulletin discusses the Feeder Line Railroad Development Program.

Other methods of beginning or expanding a rail operation exist, such as acquisitions of control, consolidations and mergers of two or more railroads. These procedures are not covered in the Information Bulletin.

The various legal options for entering short line railroading should be examined carefully. An attorney or STB practitioner experienced in railroad matters and STB regulations could prove helpful. You may also contact STB Staff Attorneys in the Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance (OPAGAC).

A successful applicant is not relieved from complying with other regulations, such as those concerned with environmental protection and historic preservation. Questions regarding those matters should be directed to the STB's Office of Environmental Analysis.

Once the line is in operation regulations affecting rail safety, track inspection, speed limits and employees' hours of service must be followed. Those regulations are administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The Railroad Retirement Board administers rail employee retirement plans and unemployment insurance.

Other considerations are important to operate a line successfully. A potential owner or operator must assess the viability of the line, establish divisions of rates with existing carriers, obtain adequate financing and follow other good business practices. Professional advice can be very valuable in these areas.