Railroads, the Free Enterprise Alternative

By Daniel L. Overbey | Go to book overview
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6
RAILROAD INDUSTRY STRUCTURE

Railroads have a unique industry structure. Formed during the mid-1800's, it survives with little change to this date. Privately owned common carriers, each operating over its own fixed way, are characteristic of the railroad industry. In contrast, the other modes' structures consist of several types of carriers sharing use of publicly owned fixed ways.

Industry structure can be defined as (1) the physical components required for producing the transportation service; (2) the public and private entities which own the various components; and (3) the operating relationships between the different entities and their components, including the regulatory environment. Physical components can be classified according to their function as part of fixed way, carrier, or terminal activities--three functions found in all transportation.1 Under the railroad industry's present structure, all three functions are performed by each railroad company.


FIXED WAY FUNCTIONS

Physical Components

The railroad fixed way includes the right of way, track, supporting structures, and traffic control system. The right of way, track, and supporting structures form the roadway; the traffic control system provides orderly traffic movement over the roadway.

Right of way is the land on which the track and its supporting structures are built. The track itself is made of several parts. Ballast is placed on the subgrade, forming the roadbed and providing an elastic, well-drained surface for the track. Wooden or concrete crossties are laid in the ballast. Steel rails are then spiked or bolted to the ties, resting on steel tie plates to reduce tie wear.

Supporting structures are necessary to maintain a grade which is level enough for efficient train operation. To take full advantage of the econo

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