Providence and Worcester Railroad summary
The Providence and Worcester Railroad (PW) is a regional railroad that operates in New England. It’s owned by Genesee and Wyoming Incorporated. Through its acquisitions and trackage rights agreements, the PW spans approximately 612 miles of standard-gauge track in Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island.
The Providence and Worcester Railroad has deep roots in the New England area dating back to 1844 when it was chartered in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts to connect its namesake cities. In the 1890s, the PW became part of a 99-year lease to the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, later the New Haven Railroad. Economic struggles in 1961 resulted in the New Haven filing for bankruptcy and ultimately merging into Penn Central. Wishing to remain an independent operation, the PW announced its intention to separate from the merged entity on April 6, 1970. A series of legal battles resulted in the Interstate Commerce Commission agreeing with an ICC examiner who recommended that the railroad should be allowed to go its own way. Independent operations for the Providence and Worcester Railroad began on February 3, 1973, concluding in 2016 when it was acquired by Genesee and Wyoming.
With Worcester, Mass., serving as the hub, the Providence and Worcester Railroad’s traffic is 90% interlined with commodities including ethanol, automobiles, steel, and coal. Aggregates, most heading to Long Island, make up 20% of the railroad’s business with Tilcon Connecticut and Rawson Materials serving as customers with multiple quarries throughout the system. The PW is also one of few shortline railroads that operate intermodal service and has been doing so for decades. The railroad partners with Intransit Container Incorporated to oversee New England’s largest international container facility in Worcester with inbound containers carrying goods from Asia.
Since being an independent operation, the Providence and Worcester’s motive power has evolved over the years, from M420Rs of the Montreal Locomotive Works to secondhand EMD GP38-2 diesel locomotives. As a subsidiary to the Genesee and Wyoming, the PW now uses the company’s roster pool of various EMD four and six-axle diesel locomotives.
The success of the Providence and Worcester is made possible with the improvements in the railroad’s interchanges and routings. Connections to the Class I railroads are made in East Alburg, Vt., with the Canadian National Railway; Willimantic, Conn., and Whitehall, N.Y., with the Canadian Pacific Railway; Gardner, Mass., Worcester and New Haven, Conn., with CSX Transportation; and Gardner with Norfolk Southern. The PW interchanges with other shortline railroads in Hartford, Conn., with the Connecticut Southern Railroad; Willimantic with the New England Central Railroad; and Queens, N.Y., with the New York and Atlantic Railway. Of the total miles operated, only 163 miles of track is owned by the Providence and Worcester. The rest is trackage rights over Amtrak, New York’s MTA Metro-North Railroad, CSX, and the Housatonic Railroad.
Read more about the Providence and Worcester Railroad in Trains’ April 2016 issue.