Comparing Railroads

Whenever I think of a business with a moat I think of a railroad as having the ultimate moat.  I can't imagine a new railroad trying to build tracks through an urban area today without a ton of NIMBY opposition.  In addition to the opposition there is the expense, where I live the public transit authority in the process of completing a two mile subway/light rail extension at the cost of close to $500m.

I was curious to see how different railroads compared so I put together this spreadsheet.  I realize that lumping large freight with small railroads with foreign passenger railroads is comparing apples to oranges but I don't really care.  I just wanted an overview of investable railroads.

(click on the picture for a bigger view)

The biggest thing that jumped out to me when putting this together is that the market often gets things right.  The better operated railroads trade at a higher multiple, whereas companies that have trouble earning their keep trade low.

-Genesee & Wyoming isn't a single railroad, they run a number of short line railroads in the US and Australia.
-Guangshen has both freight and passenger service in China
-Both Florida East Coast and BNSF are privately held but continue to report.  Florida East Coast has publicly traded bonds.
-East Japan and West Japan Railroads should probably be compared as well.

I'm interested in knowing about publicly traded railroads worldwide to add to my comparison matrix, if you know of any I've missed please email me.  If there is any interest in the actual spreadsheet I'll make the Google Docs link public for download.

Talk to Nate about the railroad industry

Disclosure: No positions


  1. Of course there is interest in your spread sheet ... could you please make a google doc ? thanks

    As a payback (for sharing the google doc) I am ready to run other screens etc for you or discuss / work with you on stock scrutiny ...analysis


  2. QR National in Australia. Was privatized in 2010, so there isn't much trading history. Also, they still have legacy contracts below market prices.

  3. Thanks for the comment about QR National in Australia. One of the companies listed Genesee and Wyoming owns a large line in Australia. It looks like the line is 2,200 km and spans from Adelaide up to Darwin.

    Australian railroads are similar to US railroads in the sense that they mostly cover longer hauls and freight. Although Australia has a strange track arrangement where some of the lines are open access and any railroad can use them. Almost like public roads, it's a fascinating concept.