BNSF Railway names Austin Western Railroad as its 2015 Shortline Railroad of the Year

Oct 23, 2015

FORT WORTH, TEXAS– BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) announced Austin Western Railroad (AWRR) as its 2015 Shortline Railroad of the Year during BNSF’s annual Shortline Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. AWRR, which is operated by Watco Companies of Pittsburg, Kan., edged out 200 other shortline railroads in North America that interchange commodities with BNSF.

“BNSF selected Austin Western for the honor because the shortline railroad participated in significant growth in traffic it interchanges with BNSF since the two railroads began their relationship in 2007 and the boon was driven by increased demand for aggregates,” said Dean Wise, vice president of Network Strategies. “Austin Western and BNSF expanded unit train operations to handle the growing aggregate traffic, which originates on the Austin Western line and continues to its destination in Texas on the BNSF network.”

For the first seven months of 2015, the freight interchanged between AWRR and BNSF increased by 28 percent compared to the same period in 2014. AWRR’s compound annual growth rate was 35 percent from 2007 through the end of 2014 for freight interchanged between the two railroads.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a significant increase in aggregate unit trains due to increased highway construction in Texas and the Austin Western Railroad moved almost all of the aggregate needed to build the Formula One race track in Austin,” said Ryan Williams, vice president marketing and sales, Watco Companies.

BNSF gained the right to interchange with AWRR as a result of the settlement agreement for the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroad merger in 1995. While the tracks AWRR operates were once owned by Southern Pacific, the rail is now owned by the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin. AWRR signed a new contract in 2015 to continue freight operations on the tracks through 2035. Capital Metro operates commuter service on the tracks during weekdays and AWRR operates freight trains in evenings and weekends on the central-Texas tracks.

AWRR operates on 111 miles of track owned by Capital Metro from Marble Falls to Elgin, Texas. AWRR interchanges freight with BNSF at McNeil, Texas. AWRR moves approximately 49,000 carloads annually, shipping commodities such as aggregates, crushed limestone, calcium bicarbonate, lumber, beer, chemicals, plastics and paper.

“The award is a great testament to the strong relationship we’ve built with BNSF,” added Williams. “Our team has a mindset to put customers first and practice safety always and this provides acknowledgement to the team that their work is recognized and appreciated.”

AWRR received the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association Jake with Distinction Award six times since 2008 and finished all six years without any reportable injuries.

Watco is the largest privately owned short line operator in the United States and today is the third year BNSF named a Watco-owned railroad as the winner in the 12-year history of annual award.

About the photo,left to right: Dean Wise, BNSF vice president of network strategy; Kevin Harris, AWRR general manager; Tim Enayati, AWRR marketing manager; and Merril Lieb, BNSF assistant vice president interline/shortline.

About Watco Companies
Watco Companies, L.L.C., (Watco) is a Pittsburg, Kansas based transportation solutions provider offering transportation, terminal and port, supply chain, and mechanical services for Customers throughout the nation. Watco is the owner of Watco Transportation Services, L.L.C., (WTS), one of the largest short line railroad holding companies in the U.S., with 34 short line railroads and 29 contract switching locations. The Terminal and Port Services division currently manages transload facilities, warehouses, port locations, and Greens Port Industrial Park. World-class supply chain solutions are offered through the Supply Chain Services division. More information about Watco and its subsidiaries can be found at

About BNSF
BNSF Railway is one of North America’s leading freight transportation companies operating on 32,500 route miles of track in 28 states, and also operates in three Canadian provinces. BNSF is one of the top transporters of consumer goods, grain and agricultural products, low-sulfur coal, and industrial goods such as petroleum, chemicals, housing materials, food and beverages. BNSF’s shipments help feed, clothe, supply, and power American homes and businesses every day. BNSF and its employees have developed one of the most technologically advanced, and efficient railroads in the industry. We work continuously to improve the value of the safety, service, energy, and environmental benefits we provide to our customers and the communities we serve. You can learn more about BNSF at