Shortline Railroad GIS

Short line railroads encounter many of the same regulations, requirements, and challenges as larger railroads, but use fewer resources to efficiently provide high quality services to their customers. Data management systems have become essential tools that railroads depend on to support their operation.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide instant access to layers of data and unlock information to support business and management decisions. GIS is a tool that integrates data, computer hardware and software to capture, manage, analyze and display information based on location.

Railroad companies make huge investments in assets and infrastructure. There is a wealth of information available to railroad companies about their railroads, but it is commonly in the form of paper maps, handwritten forms, and spreadsheets.  With GIS, those datasets and information are available in a map-based system that is easily accessible across the organization.

As part of their daily operations, railroads rely on up-to-date and accurate information to meet regulatory requirements, implement safety initiatives, and manage risks and liabilities on their railroads. Location-based data are also essential for real estate management including locating easements, ensuring safe crossings, and interacting with adjacent landowners.

As a comprehensive information system, GIS supports critical operational processes and also the support functions of a railroad. Managers have spatial data and analysis tools to manage assets, improve communications and safety, and provide customers with quality service. Crews in the field have instant access to accurate information that they use to work efficiently and quickly respond.

Ben Koostra, a consultant with Limestone & Cooper, has six years of experience implementing GIS at a major shortline railroad holding company. He has managed field data collection, installed and configured server-based GIS, and developed custom web applications that are used throughout the organization. He has broad, but practical, experience with geospatial technologies and combines it with industry experience with railroads.