The illustrious David P. Morgan, longtime editor of Trains Magazine wrote towards the end of his time in 1982 about what constitutes a Class 1 Railroad in the United States. In 2020, we have just 5 railroads functioning in a semi-national capacity. In 1982, it was a much more interesting question.
His January 1982 column, "How Many Class 1s?" states,
For all practical purposes, there are officially 39 railroads in the United States. . . . [They] employ 92 per cent of American railroaders, operate 94 per cent of rail mileage, and handle 98 per cent of rail traffic. These 39 are the Class 1 (annual gross revenues of 50 million dollars or more) line-haul railroads
Of the roads he goes on to list, fully 7 of them were active in Colorado at the time of his writing:
- Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe
- Burlington Northern
- Colorado & Southern
- Denver & Rio Grande Western
- Missouri Pacific (soon to merge with UP)
- National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
- Union Pacific
Morgan continued his analysis, weeding out railroads like the C&S, which would be absorbed into BN later that year and concluded, "Now we have, in effect 17 Class 1's--less than half the number we started with..." Burlington Northern, Rio Grande, Santa Fe, Union Pacific were the Colorado railroads included. He reduced the number even further by saying "75 per cent of the Class 1 route-miles of the country are controlled, or predictably will be, by just seven camps:" ATSF, BN and UP were in Colorado at the time. He concludes,
In sum, we have far fewer railroads in the U.S. than the number that appears at first blush, although in terms of the world (2 roads in Canada, 1 in Mexico, and of course 1 each in France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, U.K., etc.) we have a distance to go, particularly in view of the fact that 154 years after B&O's charter we still do not possess rails under one flag linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Well sir, if you're looking for a monolithic rail structure in America, it still hasn't arrived 38 years later, a whopping 192 years in total! Although, thanks to a round of mergers in the 1990s, we have today 2 Class 1 freight railroads in Colorado. Neither of which seem to have a vested interest in the state as the Rio Grande did back in 1982. ⚒