The History of Watco Companies

The Beginning

Dick Webb

Watco Companies got its start in 1983 when Charles R. "Dick" Webb purchased an industrial switching operation in DeRidder, Louisiana. Watco is proud to say it still provides service to this Customer. Two years after the start of switching operations, Webb opened a railcar repair shop in Coffeyville, Kansas. He secured a contract to repair rail cars of the coal trains traveling from the Wyoming coal fields to the southern power plants.

The Coffeyville mechanical shop was held captive to the major rail lines, and during discussions with the Union Pacific, the opportunity arose to purchase the line running from Nevada, Missouri, to Coffeyville. This was the Union Pacific’s first short line sale. 


Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad

The PCC was Watco's first West Region short line.


Eastern Idaho Railroad

Watco began operations of the Eastern Idaho Railroad, the first short-line to provide an on-time guarantee. 


Rick Webb named CEO

Rick Webb takes the helm as CEO of Watco Companies.


Stillwater Central Railroad and Timber Rock Railroad

Watco acquires two new railroads in the Central Region. The Stillwater Central in Oklahoma and the Timber Rock in Texas. 


Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad

Watco and the State of Kansas partnered to keep providing rail service to the grain elevators of Western Kansas. The K&O continues to meet not only the grain, but industrial shipping needs from Wichita to the Colorado border.


Pennsylvania Southwestern Railroad

Watco acquires the PSWR, the first East Region short line, serving the steel industry. 


Great Northwest, Mission Mountain, and Kaw River Railroads

Three new Watco short lines begin operations: the Great Northwest and the Mission Mountain in the West Region, and the Kaw River Railroad serving the Kansas City area.


KCS outsources five short line railroads to Watco

Five Kansas City Southern short lines were outsourced to Watco and began operations in 2005 and early 2006. The Alabama Southern (11/05), Arkansas Southern (10/05), Louisiana Southern (9/05), Mississipi Southern (4/05), and the Vicksburg Southern (1/06). 


Yellowstone Valley Railroad

Watco begins operating the Yellowstone Valley Railroad, it's first short line in North Dakota. 


Austin Western Railroad

Watco wins the bid to operate the freight rail portion of the Austin, Texas, line from Cap Metro. This was the first Watco line to share rail with passenger service.


Watco Acquires Millennium Rail, Inc.

On May 1, 2007, Watco acquired Millennium Rail, Inc., a provider of repair and maintenance services to the rail industry. Eight shops were added to the Watco Mechanical portfolio with the acquisition.  


Mansfield, LA and Green River, WY Switching

Switching operations begin at Mansfield, LA, for International Paper and Green River, WY, for Solvay. 


Watco acquires Reload, Inc., and Fitzgerald Railcar Services

Watco acquired Reload, Inc., on January 9th, bringing Customers experienced transloading options. Fitzgerald Railcar Services was purchased in June, adding two new locations to our Mechanical Services division. 


Baton Rouge Southern and Pacific Sun Railroads

Watco begins it's first California rail operations with the addition of the Pacific Sun Railroad and Louisiana gets it's third Watco short line operation with the Baton Rouge Southern. 


Watco moves its first CBR train

Watco moves its first Crude-by-Rail train. A Watco Team loaded the tanks in Stanley, ND, handed the train off to the BNSF and it was delivered back to Watco in Oklahoma on the Stillwater Central Railroad to Stroud, where a team unloaded the tank cars. 


Grand Elk, Alabama Warrior, & Boise Valley Railroad

Three new Watco short lines are added to the team. The Grand Elk, Alabama Warrior, and Boise Valley all come on board in 2009.


Watco Western Australia

On December 12, 2010,  Watco is awarded a long-term grain rail contract to provide services to CBH Group. 


Watco acquires full ownership of Greens Port Industrial Park

Watco acquired the remaining interest in Greens Port Industrial Park on December 17th. Prior to the purchase, Watco owned a minority interest in the property since 2004. 


Swan Ranch and Autauga Northern Railroad

The Swan Ranch Railroad in Cheyenne, WY, and the Autauga Northern Railroad in Alabama begin operations. 


Dore, Tioga, and Refugio Terminals

Terminals in Dore, and Tioga, North Dakota, and Refugio, Texas, begin operations to serve the energy industry. 


Wisconsin & Southern, Birmingham Terminal, Pecos Valley, and San Antonio Central Railroads

Watco welcomes its first regional railroad, the WSOR, to the team along with the Birmingham Terminal Railway, Pecos Valley Southern Railway and the San Antonio Central Railroad. Watco also acquires the Cudahy, WI, Car Shop.  


Ann Arbor Railroad

Watco purchased the Ann Arbor Railroad in Michigan and Ohio. The line's primary Customers being in the auto industry. 


Wellington, Tampa, Fryburg, and Philadelphia Terminals

Watco adds four new terminals to its offering in the transloading area. All serving Customers in the energy sector. Wellington, UT, Tampa, CO, Fryburg, ND, and Philadelphia, PA. 


Watco/Greenbrier Joint Venture

On July 21, 2014 Watco and The Greenbrier Companies entered into a 50/50 railcar repair joint venture creating the largest independent railcar repair shop network in North America. The venture, GBW Railcar Services, LLC owns and operates the combined network of 38 railcar repair, refurbishment, and maintenance shops of Greenbrier and Watco.


Supply Chain Services

Watco announces the creation of Watco Supply Chain Services to provide Customers with a complete transportations solutions package. 


Blue Ridge Southern Railroad

On July 26, 2014 the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad begins serving the state of North Carolina. 


Bayway, NJ, and Ferndale, WA Terminals

Terminals in Bayway, NJ and Ferndale, WA begin operations. 


Watco acquires Kinder Morgan Terminals

Watco purchases multiple (30+) terminals from Kinder Morgan Terminals. 


Lubbock & Western Railway, Texas & New Mexico Railway and Cicero Central Railroad

Watco acquires assets of two Permian Basin RR's from Iowa Pacific; the Lubbock & Western, and the Texas & New Mexico Railways. The Cicero Central also began operations, serving the needs of Koppers, Stickley, IL., facility. 


Kanawha River Railroad

Watco's 309-mile Kanawha River Railroad begins operations in West Virginia and Ohio.


Jacksonville Port Terminal Railroad

Jacksonville Port Terminal Railroad begins operations as Watco's first Florida short line.


Watco Expands Operations into Mexico

Watco expands into Mexico through a partnership with KCS and WTC at San Luis Potosi Terminal.


OKC Transload & Catoosa Terminal

Watco acquires transload facility in Oklahoma City and Tuloma Stevedoring at the Port of Catoosa.


Watco Acquires Industrial Terminal, LP Assets

Watco Acquires Assets of Industrial Terminals, L.P., in Houston, Texas.


Watco Switches for Tropicana Watco begins performing switching operations at Tropicana’s Cincinnati location.

Watco begins performing switching operations at Tropicana’s Cincinnati, Ohio, location.


Rick Webb - Executive Chairman, Dan Smith - CEO

Rick Webb takes on the role of Executive Chairman and Dan Smith assumes the position of CEO.

August 20, 2018

Watco and Greenbrier Dissolve GBW Joint Venture

Watco and Greenbrier Dissolve GBW Railcar Services Joint Venture-Press Release

September 2018

Decatur & Eastern Illinois Railroad

Watco began operations of the DREI running east from Decatur, Illinois, to Hillsdale, Indiana, and south from Georgetown, Illinois, to Paris, Illinois and then southeast to Terre Haute, Indiana.