The History of Watco Companies
1983

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. 

1992

Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad

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

1993

Eastern Idaho Railroad

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

1998

Rick Webb named CEO

Rick Webb takes the helm as CEO of Watco Companies.

1998

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. 

2001

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.

2003

Pennsylvania Southwestern Railroad

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

2004

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.

2005

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). 

2005

Yellowstone Valley Railroad

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

2007

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.

2007

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.  

2008

Mansfield, LA and Green River, WY Switching

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

2008

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. 

2008

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. 

2009

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. 

2009

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.

2010

Watco Western Australia

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

2010

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. 

2011

Swan Ranch and Autauga Northern Railroad

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

2011

Dore, Tioga, and Refugio Terminals

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

2012

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.  

2013

Ann Arbor Railroad

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

2013

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. 

2014

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.

2014

Supply Chain Services

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

2014

Blue Ridge Southern Railroad

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

2014

Bayway, NJ, and Ferndale, WA Terminals

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

2015

Watco acquires Kinder Morgan Terminals

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

2015

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. 

2016

Kanawha River Railroad

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

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