Railroad Classes

In North America, railroads are classified into 3 main categories based off of revenue. This classification can give you a quick idea as to the size and operating frequency of a railroad without other prior knowledge.


Class I

Class I (“class one”) railroads are the smallest group of railroads, and the largest in North America Class I railroads typically cover large portions of their operating countries. Class I’s are defined as:

an operating revenue exceeding $457.9 million.

(Source 1)

In addition to the above definition, both national passenger railroads of the United States and Canada (Amtrak and Via Rail) are considered Class I’s.

Class II (Regional)

Class II railroads (often called Regional railroads) are medium sized railroads that typically cover a smaller region in a country. An example of this is the [[ Reading Blue Mountain and Northern ]] railroad, which operates in the eastern half of Pennsylvania. Class II’s are defined as:

[railroads with] operating revenues between $36.6 million and $457.9 million.

(Source 1)

Class III (Shortline)

Class III railroads (usually called Shortlines), are the smallest railroads. They may operate only a few short lines, one line, or just one industrial customer. An example is the [[ Lehigh Railway ]]. Class III’s are defined as:

[railroads with] operating revenues of $36.6 million or less.

(Source 1)

List of Class I’s

Below is a table of all the Class I railroads in North America as of 2019.

Railroad United States Canada Mexico
Amtrak Yes No No
BNSF Yes No No
Canadian National Yes Yes No
Canadian Pacific Yes Yes No
CSX Yes No No
Ferromex No No Yes
Kansas City Southern Yes No Yes
Norfolk Southern Yes No No
Union Pacific Yes No No
VIA Rail No Yes No


  1. https://www.soytransportation.org/Stats/Railroad_WhatAreClass.pdf